- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

House Republicans yesterday elected Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas as their new majority leader, the first major change in the party's congressional hierarchy in four years.

"Though my role has changed, my goal remains the same: I'll work hard to bring Republicans and willing Democrats together to get things done for the American people," Mr. DeLay said.

Mr. DeLay, 55, one of the most conservative members of the Republican leadership and the party's House whip for the past eight years, was unopposed to succeed retiring Rep. Dick Armey, 62, also of Texas. Mr. Armey has been House Republican leader since the party took control of the chamber in 1994.

Known by colleagues as the "Hammer" because of his toughness in corralling votes, Mr. DeLay will take his post in January. He drinks out of a coffee cup emblazoned with a symbol for "No Whining" and is expected to be the driving force for President Bush's "compassionate conservative" agenda in the 108th Congress.

"Our majority will be put to good use by offering bold, innovative solutions to the problems confronting our country," said Mr. DeLay, who secured passage of all elements of Mr. Bush's agenda over the past two years, including permanent tax cuts and welfare reform.

In the only contested race for a Republican leadership post, Rep. Deborah Pryce, 51, of Ohio was elected as House Republican Conference chairman. It is the highest position a Republican woman ever has held in the House.

Rep. J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, 60, was retained by the conference as its choice for speaker of the House when Congress reconvenes.

In the Senate, both party caucuses retained their current leaders, who will swap status when Republicans officially take control of the chamber with the certification of Jim Talent's victory over Sen. Jean Carnahan, Missouri Democrat. Mrs. Carnahan's appointment to the seat won two years ago by her deceased husband, Mel, ends this month.

Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, 61, of Mississippi will become majority leader, ending the tenure of South Dakota Democrat Tom Daschle, who will become minority leader. Mr. Lott is preparing to take back the post he lost when Sen. James Jeffords of Vermont bolted the Republican Party in May 2001, giving Democrats a one-vote majority.

The Senate will include 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and one independent. A Louisiana Senate seat will be determined December 7 when Democrat Sen. Mary L. Landrieu faces Suzanne Haik Terrell in a runoff election.

"We have a lot of work to do," Mr. Lott said yesterday. "And we are thankful for the opportunity to work with our president of the United States, George W. Bush, with the House of Representatives, and the Senate for results in behalf of the American people."

Mr. Lott said Republicans would "reach out to the Democrats to make sure that they are part of the process" and work closely with the House and Bush administration on such priorities as national security and jobs.

"To preserve peace and security in the homeland is critical," Mr. Lott said. "We will also continue to work for economic security to encourage growth in the economy so Americans have more opportunities, more jobs and better-paying jobs, and we will focus on that."

Senate Democrats held a surprise election at their weekly luncheon, re-electing all leaders by acclamation at the urging of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia Democrat. The election had been planned for Dec. 3.

Along with Mr. Daschle, Sen. Harry Reid, 62, of Nevada was chosen assistant Democratic leader and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, 66, of Maryland was chosen Democratic Conference secretary.

Even after last week's defeat in the midterm elections, which cost Democrats control of the Senate as well as further losses in the House, no opponent stepped forward to challenge the party's leaders in the Senate.

"I was surprised and pleased with that reaffirmation of support, as I know all of our members of our leadership were," Mr. Daschle said after the vote, calling Mr. Byrd's motion "a very kind and generous thing to do."

Mr. DeLay's selection was the biggest change in Republican House leadership since the 1998 resignations of House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia and his impending replacement, Bob Livingstone of Louisiana.

The lineup of the new House will be 228 Republicans, 204 Democrats and one independent, with two races still undecided in Louisiana and Colorado.

Mr. DeLay's handpicked successor as Republican whip, Rep. Roy Blunt, 52, of Missouri, was chosen without opposition. Mr. DeLay presented him with a velvet hammer, saying, "Roy Blunt has a little bit smoother style than I do."

Mrs. Pryce defeated Reps. J.D. Hayworth of Arizona and Jim Ryun of Kansas in the race to replace retiring Rep. J.C. Watts Jr. of Oklahoma.

A senior Senate Republican aide said the team was "energized" as never before since Mr. Jeffords left the party.

"Jeffords was the low point. Republicans from then on pulled together and kept together to elect a majority, and they intend to keep together with a strong team that will reach out to more moderate Democrats," the aide said.

Senate Republicans chose Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, 79, as president pro tempore, to succeed retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who turns 100 on Dec. 5.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, 60, of Kentucky was unopposed to become assistant leader or "whip" to succeed Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma.

"Democrats know we're going to get credit for anything that we can achieve. If we do succeed, we will have demonstrated we can perform," said Sen. Jon Kyl, 60, of Arizona, chosen as Republican policy chairman.

Sen. George Allen, 50, of Virginia, chosen chairman of the Senate Republican Campaign Committee, said Democrats will find themselves in an awkward spot politically "if the Republican agenda is an agenda of action that promotes national security, job opportunity and benefits to the taxpayer."

"If Democrats try to thwart that, thwart opportunities to the American people, we'll just keep pushing," Mr. Allen said.

The eight newly elected Republican senators appeared for the first time together publicly, saying their priorities were to make permanent tax cuts, increase job opportunities and improve education. They also praised Mr. Bush's leadership.

"The president spoke so eloquently [during the campaign] about values, what united us instead of divided us," said Sen.-elect Lamar Alexander, 62, Tennessee Republican.

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