DeLay Gives Up Fight for Leadership Post

U.S. Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) speaks at the Heritage Foundation on Nov. 3.

hide captionU.S. Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) speaks at the Heritage Foundation on Nov. 3.

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U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) abandons his attempt to return as House majority leader. DeLay, who faces charges that he violated Texas campaign finance laws, stepped aside last year. He's been under growing pressure from fellow Republicans who don't want him to return.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Debbie Elliott.

Tom DeLay, the Republican often described as the most powerful figure on Capitol Hill, will not attempt to regain his position as House majority leader. Speaking from his hometown of Sugar Land, Texas, this afternoon, DeLay said he would remain as a member of Congress and focus on his legal battles in the months ahead. Here's some of what he had to say.

Representative TOM DeLAY (Republican, Texas): The job of majority leader is too important to be hamstrung by personal distractions. I have worked very hard to meet their needs and serve their values in Washington. Those needs and values will now best be served by allowing House Republicans to set a new course and to unite behind a new and focused leader.

ELLIOTT: DeLay faces trial on campaign finance charges in Texas and could be a target of the congressional ethics investigation that has engulfed his one-time ally, the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff pleaded guilty this week and is cooperating with federal investigators. Joining us now is NPR's congressional correspondent Andrea Seabrook.

Hi, Andrea.

ANDREA SEABROOK reporting:

Hi, Debbie.

ELLIOTT: So why did DeLay make this announcement today?

SEABROOK: Well, you know, DeLay's come under increasing pressure in the last few days, especially from members of his own party. Since those guilty pleas you're talking about of his old friend and associate Jack Abramoff, those guilty pleas led two members of Congress in particular, one conservative and one moderate Republican, to circulate a petition and get signatures from a couple dozen members of Congress, Republicans pushing for leadership elections now and without the consideration of Tom DeLay. Most Republican congressmen I've spoken to today say they believe with that petition, DeLay finally saw the writing on the wall, that he has become more of a political liability to House Republicans with his current problems than an asset, and so he came out and made today's announcement.

ELLIOTT: So what's next? Missouri Congressman Roy Blunt has been acting as majority leader. Will he get the permanent job?

SEABROOK: Well, that's a good question. He has stated that he's running for the permanent job, and incidentally, that means the majority whip job which was his old job, the number three person there in the Republican leadership, is also open. And so we're going to see races for at least those two posts, waiting to see if there will be races for posts even below that. But, you know, he hasn't exactly been--had stellar performance in the last couple of months that he's been acting majority leader since DeLay stepped down, although he says with the pushing through of big priorities in just the last few weeks of the defense authorization bill and other big, you know, budget reconciliation, budget cuts, that he pushed through, that he says that he's a good candidate. But there are other names being thrown around. Indiana's Mike Pence, a leader among conservatives. Ohio's John Boehner, formerly in the leadership, has his own base of power. It's likely to be a pretty spirited race.

ELLIOTT: And I'm sure you'll be watching it for us.

SEABROOK: Oh, I will.

ELLIOTT: Thank you. NPR's Andrea Seabrook, thank you so much.

SEABROOK: You're welcome.

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