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DeLay's legal troubles will shut down House in January
The Stateman
By Scott Shepard
Monday, December 12, 2005

WASHINGTON — Although there has been some rumbling among Republicans about permanently filling the majority leader post Tom DeLay vacated, House leaders are moving to give the embattled lawmaker from Sugar Land more time to clear away his legal problems and reclaim the post.

The Republican leadership is planning to keep the House in recess almost the entire month of January, while the full Senate plans to return on Jan. 18, almost two weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

DeLay's lawyers hope to use that time to get the campaign money laundering charges against the lawmaker dismissed or prevail at trial, clearing the way for him to reclaim his leadership post. Meanwhile, DeLay is maneuvering to try to get a more powerful interim position.

But some GOP legislators, concerned that DeLay's legal and ethical problems are undermining the political standing of the Republican congressional majority, are openly calling for new House leadership elections in January to install a permanent replacement for DeLay in the No. 2 position in the House under Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

"We need to make a fundamental decision early next year about where we need to go," Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., said last week after a Texas judge refused to dismiss felony charges brought against DeLay in connection with the alleged laundering of campaign donations in a 2002 Texas election.

Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., a longtime critic of DeLay, was more to the point in his remarks. Having DeLay reclaim the position he relinquished in September after his indictment by a Texas grand jury "would be a disaster" for the Republican congressional majority, Shays said.

But even as he seeks to reclaim his No. 2 spot in the House political hierarchy, DeLay is also trying to claim a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, his one-time power base, as a short-term remedy to his loss of power on Capitol Hill, according to The Hill newspaper.

A vacancy on the panel occurred earlier this week when Rep. Duke Cunningham, R-Calif., resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to charges that he accepted bribes from a defense contractor.

Under GOP House rules, DeLay was forced to relinquish his position as majority leader upon his indictment by a Texas grand jury. DeLay unsuccessfully tried to change those rules before the indictment in order to remain in the post even if charged with crimes.

Since his departure from the House leadership, most of DeLay's duties have been performed by Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the House majority whip, a position with the responsibility for keeping GOP members in line on crucial votes.

Blunt has sought to reassure House Republicans that DeLay will return to prominence, but has also said that he "wouldn't oppose an effort" to hold leadership elections in January.

Political analysts suggest that it will be difficult, if not impossible, for DeLay to return as majority leader, even if cleared of the political corruption charges in Texas.

"Republicans will lose control of Congress if they let DeLay back into power," said Craig Crawford, a Congressional Quarterly columnist and analyst for the MSNBC cable news network.

I remember stories from the good old days, when nothing shut down the US congress. Not war, depression or national disaster. But Tom DeLay's legal troubles are so important the nations business must be put on hold.

The republican Speaker of the House (third in line to be president) should be impeached and removed from office (assuming he's reelected).