Shadegg Sets Sights on House Leadership

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Steve Inskeep talks to Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ), the latest to jump into the race to succeed Tom DeLay as House majority leader. Though Shadegg also accepted money from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he insists he's more committed to reform than his two main rivals — the current acting majority leader Roy Blunt (R-MO) and John Boehner (R-OH).


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Today, we're examining Republican efforts to recover from indictments and guilty pleas. One member of Congress quit in disgrace. A second gave up his committee chairmanship. A lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty to corruption, and Tom DeLay gave up his post as the majority leader.

INSKEEP: The race to replace DeLay has now become a forum for Republicans to show where they want to move next. Three lawmakers want the job. One is Congressman John Boehner of Ohio who summed up the contest on Fox News.

Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): Which candidate can provide the real leadership to reform our party, to reform our Congress, and to provide the leadership, to renew the confidence and courage of House Republicans.

INSKEEP: We're going to discuss those questions and others with one of Boehner's opponents for the top job. He's Congressman John Shadegg of Arizona and we've reached him in Phoenix. Congressman, welcome to the program.

Representative JOHN SHADEGG (Republican, Arizona): Good morning, Steve. Glad to be with you.

INSKEEP: Did John Boehner get the question about right for what Republicans face?

Rep. SHADEGG: I think he did. I think in the sense of the leadership point, but also the confidence point. I think that's the key here. The problem is that we've been, I think, eclipsed in our substantive agency by other issues, which I think could, fair to say, have damaged our confidence. And those issues are the scandals that have hit Washington.

INSKEEP: Well, Republicans have to be asking which of you three can get beyond the question of the scandals. You have a leading contender who's married to a lobbyist; you have John Boehner who's been accused of his own set of problems; and I have to mention you have returned $6,900 in campaign contributions to sources connected to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty.

Rep. SHADEGG: Yes, in my case, I guess I would point out that that $6,900 is a fraction of what my opponents got in Abramoff related money. And it all came from a gentleman who had worked on the Hill, worked with me, who set up three different events and made a personal donation and got Mr. Abramoff's firm to make a pact donation.

INSKEEP: Do you think that saying that you received less than your opponents will make you appear clean enough to move beyond this scandal?

Rep. SHADEGG: Absolutely not. That's in part a defense of my position. But the question is not how much or how little he received, the question is who is proposing real reforms. And who can credibly carry off those reforms.

INSKEEP: What's one real reform, as you see it, that you have proposed?

Rep. SHADEGG: Well, I'll give you the first one. When "Duke" Cunningham pled guilty to bribery, he gets to keep his Congressional pension.

INSKEEP: This is a former colleague of yours, Republican congressman (unintelligible).

Rep. SHADEGG: Republican congressman from San Diego. I argued that the day we came back into session, we should pass a bill that says no elected official at the Federal level who is convicted of a bribe, of taking a bribe, or pleads guilty to taking a bribe, should get a public pension. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get the Acting Majority Leader to put that bill on the floor.

INSKEEP: Let's listen to something that the front-runner in this race has said. Roy Blunt is leading the House Republicans right now. He wants to do that job permanently and he said this over the weekend on Fox News.

Representative ROY BLUNT (Republican, Montana): I don't think we're stuck in neutral at all. Matter of fact, I think the finish of the last Congress, if you look at what we did, was one of the strongest philosophically we've ever had.

INSKEEP: Congressman Shadegg, do you believe that Congress can be proud, the Republicans in Congress can be proud, of their accomplishments over the last year or so?

Rep. SHADEGG: We've accomplished a lot that is good for America but we have not done as much as we need to and clearly, our effort has been overshadowed by these other problems.

INSKEEP: Congressman John Shadegg is from Arizona. Thanks very much.

Rep. SHADEGG: Thank you.

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