Rep. Tom DeLay’s final speech on the House floor last night was marked with partisan politics in what some said was a fitting farewell for the former majority leader, nicknamed the “Hammer” for his bulldog style.
When the Texas Republican took the floor to deliver a goodbye address to his colleagues after 22 years in Congress, most Democrats didn’t bother to stay.
When he started talking about liberals’ wanting to take more money out of people’s pockets, the Democrats hissed, and most of the 50 left in the chamber stood and walked out.
Mr. DeLay, whose resignation from the House is effective today, didn’t mind. In fact, he said lawmakers should celebrate partisanship: “You show me a nation without partisanship, and I’ll show you a tyranny.”
Mr. DeLay said some lament partisan rancor, but he considers partisanship a symptom of democracy’s health and strength, “especially from the perspective of a political conservative.”
He said liberals seek “more government, more taxation, more control over people’s lives and decisions and wallets.”
“If conservatives don’t stand up to liberalism, no one will,” he said, to hissing from the opposite side of the aisle.
His speech also touched on an issue that he championed during his time in Washington — helping foster children.
“The catastrophe of America’s child welfare and foster care systems is a national outrage, a government failure and a bipartisan embarrassment,” he said. “I leave you today not by asking that someone take up this cause, but by asking that all of you do.”
Mr. DeLay’s dedication to his foster children over the years shows his compassion and “says volumes about somebody’s heart,” said Rep. K. Michael Conaway, Texas Republican.
The swan song came as an ethics cloud hangs over Mr. DeLay’s head. He was forced to step down as majority leader in September, when a Texas grand jury charged him with money laundering. Also, Mr. DeLay’s former deputy chief of staff has pleaded guilty in a corruption investigation looking into the affairs of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Mr. DeLay, 59, maintains that he is not guilty and says the charges are politically motivated. He also defends his style.
“I have scraped and clawed for every vote, every amendment, for every word of every bill that I believed in my heart would protect human freedom and defend human dignity,” he said yesterday. “I have done so at all times honorably and honestly, Mr. Speaker, as God is my witness and history is my judge. If given the chance to do it all again there’s only one thing I would change: I would fight even harder.”
His colleagues gave him three standing ovations, including when Mr. DeLay praised his wife, Christine, who was wiping tears from her eyes as she sat in the gallery above the House chamber.
Earlier in the day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who has called Mr. DeLay “one of the most corrupt leaders in the history of the Congress,” said the speech should not be done during congressional business and that the minority party would object to and block the address.
However, the threat never materialized. Mrs. Pelosi was not present for the speech.