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Two more Republicans say the DeLay should be replaced permanently
Houston Chronicle
Moderates join chorus on DeLay
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle
December 8, 2005

WASHINGTON - Two leading moderate House Republicans told reporters Thursday that the House should elect a new majority leader to replace Rep. Tom DeLay.

Chris Shays of Connecticut and Sherwood Boehlert of New York joined a handful of conservative Republicans who have said they want an election, which would have the effect of permanently removing DeLay from the leadership.

One of them, Jeff Flake of Arizona, said Thursday that he "may represent the silent majority" that could gradually go public with the same sentiment.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, had to step aside as majority leader, the No. 2 position in the chamber, when a Travis County grand jury indicted him in September and October on charges related to campaign finances.

Rep. Dan Lungren of California, of the conservative Republican Study Committee, said the temporary leadership structure created after DeLay's indictment can't last.

"Uncertainty in a leadership situation is never good," Lungren said. "At best, it should be a short-term proposition. We need to make a fundamental decision early next year about where we need to go."

Shays, a vocal DeLay critic, said it "would be a disaster" to have him return to a leadership position. "There is no way he is going to be healthy" in the political sense, Shays said, and as a consequence he could cast an ethical pall over the GOP.

Acquittal wouldn't help
Some House Republicans are concerned that even if DeLay is acquitted, he could face legal troubles in the investigation in Washington of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, once a close friend of DeLay's.

Boehlert, a 12-term lawmaker who chairs the House Science Committee, said moderate Republicans agree that the issue cannot be postponed past early February, when the House returns from Christmas break.

DeLay's attorneys have asked state District Judge Pat Priest to schedule a trial no later than the middle of January, which could conclude before the House goes back into session.

But Priest indicated Thursday that he won't grant DeLay's lawyers' requests for the speediest resolution of the case.

Priest said he cannot hear a motion claiming prosecutor misconduct by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle until the last week of December. It is the last motion that could get the case thrown out before trial, and DeLay's lawyers had asked for a hearing on the issue next week.

In a letter to lawyers in the case, Priest also said he probably will not grant a motion to have DeLay tried separately on a count of money laundering and later on a count of conspiracy to engage in money laundering. He said he also probably won't sever DeLay from his two co-defendants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro.

Priest said the money laundering and conspiracy cases involve the same acts and that it would not be appropriate to try them separately.

Separate charges
On Wednesday, DeLay lawyer Dick DeGuerin asked Priest to have the charges against DeLay separated because he feared Earle would delay a trial by appealing Priest's decision Monday to throw out charges of conspiracy to violate state election law.

Earle has until Dec. 20 to appeal the dismissal. The prosecutor could ask Priest to stay the trial pending a ruling by the appeals court, which would delay the proceedings for months.

DeGuerin said Earle would have no reason to appeal the ruling other than to slow down a trial. Earle's office has declined to comment on DeGuerin's accusation or the case in general.

In recent days, DeLay has said the news media are creating the false impression that a House leadership race is imminent and he has insisted that the GOP conference does not want one.

"The support for Mr. DeLay has been emphatic and expressed by the leadership and a majority of members in the conference," said DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden. "Everyone knows that his eventual exoneration is no longer a question of if, but a question of when."

Samantha Levine reported from Washington, R.G. Ratcliffe from Austin.

samantha.levine@chron.com  r.g.ratcliffe@chron.com