Texas Republicans suffer 'huge loss'
Texas Republicans suffer 'huge loss'
Web Posted: 01/08/2006 12:00 AM CST
Express-News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON Rep. Tom DeLay's decision Saturday to
abandon his bid to remain House majority leader struck
a blow to President Bush and Texas Republicans who
have flourished under the besieged leader's wings.
DeLay, who faces money-laundering charges in Texas,
announced his decision to avoid an intra-party fight
for his former seat as majority leader.
The decision is a setback to Texas Republicans, who
united behind DeLay and his leadership, which helped
many to ascend the party ladder and attain positions
of power within the House of Representatives.
"From the standpoint of Texas, to have the House
majority leader resign is certainly a huge loss to the
Texas delegation," said Earl Black, a political
scientist at Rice University in Houston.
Texans, including President Bush, have fared well
because of DeLay's power.
The fall is historic, but certainly not unique.
Democrats prospered under Speaker Jim Wright, D-Fort
Worth, who was forced to step down in 1989 under an
And like Democratic lawmakers decades ago, GOP members
from the Lone Star State moved up in the party
hierarchy under DeLay's guiding hand.
San Antonio alone has seen Rep. Lamar Smith rise
within the party and poised to take the chairmanship
of the House Judiciary Committee.
And Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, jumped above
more senior members to become a subcommittee chairman
on the House Appropriations Committee.
Both have held fundraisers to help DeLay fight the
charges brought in Texas by Travis County District
Attorney Ron Earle.
But ethics scandals in Washington surrounding lobbyist
Jack Abramoff, who has strong ties to DeLay, created a
climate of concern for Republicans trying to hold
their majority in the House and Senate.
DeLay's departure hurts the state delegation, but the
fallout is more reaching.
"I don't think it is as much of a hit for Texas as it
is for the Republican Party," David Crockett, a
Trinity University political scientist in San Antonio,
said of the DeLay decision.
Republican lawmakers circulated a petition this
weekend calling for leadership elections after
Abramoff pleaded guilty to felony charges in
Washington and Florida, and announced he would
cooperate with federal probes into allegations of
corruption in Congress.
"Cleaning up the pervasive culture of corruption in
Washington requires more than shuffling the Republican
leadership," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin. "It
requires cleaning the House."
Republicans sought to cast the DeLay announcement as a
"Today's decision, although difficult, continues Tom
DeLay's commitment to put his nation, his
constituents, his colleagues and his party first,"
said Ken Mehlman, Republican National Committee
For Texans, the decision by DeLay to forego a
leadership battle leaves the state without a strong
man in the House to arm-twist legislation favorable to
Lone Star interests.
That same characteristic served Bush well when DeLay
won critical votes on the Central American Free Trade
Agreement and other contentious issues.
DeLay is running for re-election in his Houston-suburb
congressional district, while fighting charges in
Austin that he schemed to move corporate money
illegally from Washington to state legislative
candidates, in violation of Texas election law.
He is adamant about his innocence, and faces trial
Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the GOP whip, has handled the
majority leader duties since DeLay was indicted in
Nonetheless, DeLay's drag on Republican lawmakers
facing re-election, in the atmosphere of the Abramoff
scandal, is forcing Republicans to push the former
majority leader aside, experts said.
"It's just another example of hardball politics,"
Republicans have an eye on November, said Crockett,
and the swirl of ethical taint around DeLay is
unacceptable to GOP lawmakers facing re-election
"Members of Congress want to get elected, and they
will only go so far," Crockett said.