- The Washington Times - Monday, November 8, 2004

The leadership position of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is secure, Republicans say, after the party made gains in Tuesday’s election, especially in Mr. DeLay’s home state of Texas, where he orchestrated a redistricting plan that helped oust Democratic incumbents.

Mr. DeLay was admonished twice by the House ethics panel this fall, leading some to speculate his post could be in jeopardy if the party suffered due to the problems. Rep. Joe Pitts, Pennsylvania Republican, last month said the ethics charges were politically motivated, but predicted that some Republicans might turn against the leader if the party lost seats in November.

The success in Texas, where the number of House Republicans went from 11 to 16, bodes well for Mr. DeLay and his leadership ability, Republicans say.

“It does exonerate him,” Mr. Pitts said Friday. “I think he’ll be fine as far as keeping his position in leadership, because he’s been a leader. He’s done what a leader should do.”

House Republicans began with 227 seats and two vacancies owing to Republican retirements. They were able to increase their numbers to 231 seats with two races still left to be decided in a runoff early next month in Louisiana.

“The members know what Tom went through to strengthen our majority,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, referring to the ethics charges. “He took a lot of hits for the team, and we are the stronger for it. … I don’t think there’s any question that there’s a debt of gratitude.”

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said this should show Democrats their tactics of complaining and criticizing the leader do not work.

“Like overindulging in junk food, obsessing with bashing President Bush and Tom DeLay may feel good when you do it, but it’s ultimately unfulfilling and bad for your health,” said Mr. Grella, adding that it leaves one “with bad teeth, overweight and still hungry.”

But Greg Speed, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Mr. DeLay’s likely pursuit of “a radical agenda” including privatizing Social Security and instituting a national sales tax could be a real issue in future elections. Mr. Speed said the public has not given Republicans a mandate to pursue these things, but the Republican Party will anyway.

Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said the gains in Texas were simply a reflection of the districts Mr. DeLay redrew to favor Republicans. She noted that the legality of the redistricting is still a matter before Texas courts.

And she said ethical concerns with Mr. DeLay “are still there” as well.

Earlier this fall, Mr. DeLay was admonished for improperly seeking government help to find a plane carrying Texas Democrats, who were trying to thwart his redistricting plan and for raising “an appearance of impropriety” by participating in a fund-raiser with energy company officials while negotiations were underway on an energy bill in 2002.

While Ms. Crider said she didn’t know if any more ethics charges would be pursued by Democrats, she said, “If he continues to operate the way he has, those same questions will be raised. … He has used some very hard-nosed tactics in how he operates the House that have been well-documented and cause for rebuke by the ethics committee.”

Mr. Pitts said he could easily see Democrats — angry about the election — throwing more charges against Mr. DeLay. But Mr. Pitts warned that Republicans won’t stand for it.

“If the Democrats keep this up, we’re going to reciprocate,” he said. “We can file charges, too.”

When it comes to party relations, Ms. Crider said Mrs. Pelosi “has reached out, and the question is whether or not they will take her up on it.”

Mr. Grella said Republicans would welcome Democrats onto the Republican bandwagon.

“Bipartisanship is a two-way street, and we’re controlling the traffic,” he said. “They have an opportunity to get on board and work with us, or they can continue to obstruct and complain and suffer the political price.”

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