Republicans starting to abandon DeLay
Looks like some Republicans are thinking things don't look good for DeLay. Two dozen have agreed to sign a petion to perm. replace him as majority leader.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About two dozen Republicans have agreed to sign a petition that calls for an election to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay as majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, aides said on Friday, dealing another blow to the indicted Texan's political future.
Fifty signatures would be needed to require the 231-member House Republican conference to hold an election, which could come within weeks, they said.
"We have commitments for about 25 signatures. The letter calls for a leadership election for a permanent majority leader," said Matthew Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jeff Flake (news, bio, voting record), a conservative Arizona Republican.
A source close to House Republicans, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of DeLay's situation, told Reuters that the signatures were being collected from conservative and moderate Republicans. The source said Rep. Charles Bass (news, bio, voting record), a New Hampshire moderate, was working closely with Flake.
Another source, a Republican leadership aide who asked not to be identified because the petition effort was still underway, said it was still unclear whether the remaining 25 Republican signatures would be collected, but that they had already made a strong statement.
Calling Friday's developments "significant," the aide added, "It is one thing for members to talk. It is another to put their names on paper saying they want an election. They are saying it is time for him (DeLay) to step aside."
A spokesman for DeLay was not available for comment. But sources said the Texas Republican would likely confer privately with members in coming days before deciding what to do.
The Republican Main Street Partnership, a coalition of moderate Republicans in Congress and the private sector, has been one of the groups clamoring for a permanent replacement for DeLay and saying his political problems threatened to detract from this year's legislative agenda.
DeLay was forced to resign as House majority leader, the No. 2 leadership job, in September after he was indicted in Texas on money laundering and conspiracy charges. Since then, Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record) of Missouri has been the acting majority leader.
DELAY'S FUTURE CLOUDED
When he stepped down, DeLay, 58, said the move was temporary and that he would return to the majority leader job after being cleared of the accusations. DeLay said the felony charges were engineered by Democratic opponents in Texas.
But more recently, DeLay's political future has been further clouded by his close association with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Abramoff and his American Indian clients contributed millions of dollars to Republicans and Democrats over the past several years. Abramoff pleaded guilty this week to fraud charges as part of a widening Washington criminal investigation.
Democrats again called on the House Ethics Committee to investigate Abramoff and his ties to lawmakers. "This is a necessary first step to restore a high ethical standard to the Congress," Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York, said in remarks prepared for delivery in the Democratic radio address to be broadcast on Saturday.
DeLay, a former owner of a pest control company, came to the House in 1985 and rose quickly through the ranks, earning a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fund-raiser.
In 1994, DeLay was part of "The Republican Revolution" that saw his party win control of the House for the first time in 40 years. He was nicknamed "The Hammer" for his governing style.
DeLay assembled a political machine that churned out narrow and largely partisan victories on legislation from tax cuts to easing federal regulations.
"I have a basic political philosophy: hard work wins every time," DeLay said.
If there is an election for majority leader, Blunt is expected to seek the job. Other possible candidates, sources said, include Rep. John Boehner (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio and Rep. Mike Pence (news, bio, voting record) of Indiana.