WASHINGTON — With considerable cheer, Congress, following a constitutional requirement as old as the republic, counted electoral votes today and Vice President George Bush, in a historical quirk and with a straight face, declared himself the winner of the presidency.
In a 27-minute ceremony, the House and Senate met in joint session, counted the electoral votes state by state and found what had been expected--that Bush had won 426 electoral votes, while Democrat Michael S. Dukakis gathered 111 and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen had one.
As vice president, Bush had the duty to preside over the session and therefore found himself in the strange position of announcing himself as the winner of the race for the White House.
That was also a historical oddity because Bush's win last November made him the first sitting vice president in 152 years to rise to the Oval Office by way of election. Martin Van Buren achieved the same objective in 1836.
Bush was straight-faced as he announced the results.
"George Bush of the state of Texas has received for President of the United States 426 votes. Michael S. Dukakis of the commonwealth of Massachusetts has received 111 votes. LLoyd Bentsen of the state of Texas has received one vote," he said.
After announcing the results for vice president, Bush noted: "This announcement shall be deemed a sufficient declaration of the persons elected President and vice president of the United States--each for the term beginning on the 20th day of January, 1989."
Then Bush broke into a broad grin and accepted congratulations from the lawmakers.