In what is seen as a totally partisan attempt to insure Tom Delay keeps his party position, even if he’s indicted because of the Texas campaign funding illegalities, House Republicans proposed changing a GOP party rule that would have cost Delay his seat. Under the old rules, if you had a felony charge against you, you lost your party post.
But to keep Delay the head of the House, they said that “future issues are to be dealt with on a case by case basis” and that “only Federal felony charges need apply, not State felony charges.”
Doesn’t matter that he’s been rebuked multiple times just in the last couple of months. Ethics mean nothing to Republicans. Lies and the number of times you tell the same lie, apparently does.
House GOP Changes Rules to Protect DeLay
Wed Nov 17, 7:22 PM ET
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – House Republicans demonstrated their loyalty to Majority Leader Tom DeLay on Wednesday, changing a party rule that would have cost him his leadership post if he were indicted by a Texas grand jury that has charged three of his associates.
DeLay watched from the back of the room but did not speak as GOP lawmakers struggled in closed session before ending a requirement that leaders indicted on felony charges relinquish their positions. Republicans will now decide a House leader’s fate in a case-by-case review.
The change received overwhelming but not unanimous approval in a voice vote that showed Republicans’ eagerness to protect the leader who raised countless campaign dollars for them. He also engineered a redistricting plan in Texas that caused five Democratic losses through retirement or election defeats.
The dilemma was to shield DeLay in a case that he views as political, while not giving blanket protection to any leader indicted for a crime that clearly has no political overtones. During the closed debate that spanned four hours, with breaks, someone even questioned whether a leader charged with murder could retain his or her post, according to a House aide who was present. Such questions would be handled in the case-by-case review.
There is no indication DeLay will be indicted by the Austin grand jury in a probe led by a Democratic prosecutor, Ronnie Earle. In September, grand jurors indicted the three DeLay associates and eight corporations in an investigation of alleged illegal corporate contributions to a political action committee associated with DeLay, R-Texas.
“I did not instigate this,” DeLay told reporters after the meeting. “It was not leader led. This came from the members themselves.”
DeLay said the impetus for the change was a desire to prevent a Democratic district attorney from deciding whether House Republican leaders could keep their jobs. He accused Earle of “trying to criminalize politics and using the criminal code to insert himself into politics.”
Earle said the Republican rules change would have no effect on his investigation, and added, “It should be alarming to the public to see their leaders substitute their judgment for that of the law enforcement process.”
The prime mover for the change was Rep. Henry Bonilla (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas, who won with less than 52 percent of the vote two years ago and 69 percent this year after his district boundaries were changed in a DeLay-engineered Texas redistricting plan. He cited previous Texas cases he viewed as political — all investigated by Earle, the prosecutor in the current campaign finance probe. In one of those cases, charges against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (news, bio, voting record) — then a Texas official — were abruptly dropped 10 years ago.
“This takes the power away from any partisan crackpot district attorney who may want to indict” party leaders and make a name for himself, Bonilla said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., denounced the Republicans’ move.
“Republicans have reached a new low,” Pelosi said in a statement. “It is absolutely mind-boggling that as their first order of business following the elections, House Republicans have lowered the ethical standards for their leaders.”
Some GOP lawmakers also opposed the change.
“It sends all the wrong signals for us to change the current rules,” said Rep. Zach Wamp (news, bio, voting record) of Tennessee. He said he requested a recorded, secret ballot but the suggestion was voted down.
A fellow Republican opponent, Rep. Christopher Shays (news, bio, voting record) of Connecticut, estimated 30 to 50 members voted against it. More than 200 Republicans were eligible to vote.
Shays told reporters it violates the spirit of the Congressional Accountability Act — a GOP-inspired law that forces Congress to follow federal laws that apply to the private sector.
While the law does not cover relinquishing a position of responsibility in case of a felony indictment, Shays said someone in an important, private leadership position would likely have to step aside in a similar circumstance.
Recalling that elimination of favoritism for lawmakers was an issue that helped Republicans capture control of the House a decade ago, Shays said, “There are too many new members who don’t remember how we got here.”
The GOP next year will have at least 231 members in the 435-member House, with three races undecided.
The modified rule the Republicans approved would give the 28-member House Republican Steering Committee 30 days to review the case of an indicted leader or committee chairman.
A recommendation would be sent to a conference of all Republicans for a final decision.
The indicted member would retain his or her leadership role during the review. A member who is later convicted would automatically be removed from a leadership post or committee chairmanship.
House Democrats have a rule requiring committee leaders to step aside in case of a felony indictment, but it does not apply to top party leaders. Pelosi said the rule will be expanded to include the top leadership.