Beltway Bloodsport


Here is Tom DeLay's win—spin at the end of his interview with Brit Hume the evening of 28 September:

HUME: Tell me about the caucus today where the decision was made that Roy Blunt would step up to assume most of your duties?

DELAY: That's the best part of it.

HUME: What about it?

DELAY: The best part about it is the Republican Caucus members saw this for what it was. And the Democrats couldn't have done more to bring us together and unite us when we were actually falling apart.

Last week was a bad week for the unity in our caucus. I have never seen our caucus so unified. And they are focused on our agenda of getting tax cuts, entitlement reform, taking care of the disasters, gas prices.

We are sticking to our agenda and we are going forward.

But here's the story of the Republican's internal power struggle as reported in the middle of an AP article:

Some Republican lawmakers, who refused to be identified by name as a condition for disclosing their personal opinions, said they doubted DeLay would ever return to the leadership table. Others spoke of the possibility for political damage.

"Any time you have anything that smacks of scandal, it hurts all of us," said Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado, who served as chairman of the House ethics committee at a time when the panel three times admonished DeLay for his actions.

Several officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an aide to Hastert contacted California Rep. David Dreier on Monday about assuming the majority leader's duties in the event DeLay was indicted. Several lawmakers said such a change would have made it easier for the Texan to eventually regain his post.

But by Tuesday, as the grand jury completed its work in Austin, Texas, Blunt forcefully asserted his claim to the job in conversations with the speaker, according to several GOP officials.

At the same time, conservative lawmakers quickly made known their unhappiness with Dreier as a potential stand—in for DeLay.

At a private midday meeting, several conservative lawmakers argued that Dreier's voting record was too moderate. According to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, some participants in the meeting said the Californian had voted in favor of expanded federal funding for stem cell research and against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. There also was grumbling that the Californian favored a less restrictive policy on immigration than many conservatives.

"There was a lot of discussion in that room about will ... he advance the conservative agenda?" said Rep. Jack Kingston (search), R—Ga., who attended the meeting and said he personally would have been comfortable with Dreier in the post.

Other officials said a show of hands near the end of the session showed support for a postponement in selecting a temporary majority leader if it were to be Dreier. A delegation was dispatched to inform Hastert, who in the meantime had decided to recommend Blunt instead.

The speaker presented his recommendation not long afterward at a closed—door meeting of the rank and file, saying it was designed as a stopgap solution.

But even then some lawmakers expressed concern about inadvertently making an open—ended commitment, and Hastert pledged that the issue could be reopened in three months' time.

That leaves DeLay little time to clear his name and reclaim his post before a potential round of elections in which Blunt, Cantor or others face challenges, with the winners emerging with clear mandates of their own. 

Along with that here's an assessment of  DeLay's prospects, courtesy of John Tabin over at the American Spectator

(If he's cleared, bringing DeLay back as Majority leader) might be worth the risk if DeLay were irreplaceable on the Hill, but he isn't. While his hardball tactics have produced some victories in the past —— notably in the Texas redistricting fight that moved several House seats into the R column —— lately he's worn out his welcome. Two weeks ago he generated peals of laughter from sea to sea when he said that "nobody has been able to come up with any" fat to cut out of the federal budget to offset post—Katrina rebuilding costs, and that "after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good." These are the words of a leader who is either boldly dishonest or who has simply lost touch with reality. I wrote last week about the good politics and good policy of efforts to prove DeLay wrong, including the Republican Study Committee's "Operation Offset."

The Prowler reported yesterday on the new AmSpecBlog that Roy Blunt, the temporary leader who is stepping in for DeLay, got his post in part because of gratitude within the RSC for Blunt's support for Operation Offset. DeLay, who The Prowler notes has made at least one sleazy power play against Blunt in the past, preferred David Dreier.

An RSC member tells The Prowler that there might be growing support within the Republican Caucus for making Blunt's leadership permanent, if he follows through on spending cuts. Let's hope this is true. On fiscal issues, DeLay has proven that he's all wet. Whether or not he's actually dirty, Republicans should let him hang him out to dry.

Isn't this fun? Makes one wonder if the fiscally conservative Republicans aren't winking at the indictment of DeLay by Texas Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Politics does make for some very strange bedfellows. But what does this mean for the Bush agenda? Are the Conservatives committing political suicide or preventing the Republican Party from going headlong off a cliff? Stay tuned, folks.

Dennis Sevakis   9 29 05