January 03, 2005
DeLay rule rescinded

Well, well, well. Sometimes outrage gets results.

House Republicans suddenly reversed course Monday, deciding to retain a tough standard for lawmaker discipline and reinstate a rule that would force Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside if indicted by a Texas grand jury.

The surprise dual decisions were made by Speaker Dennis Hastert and by DeLay who asked GOP colleagues to undo the extreme act of loyalty they handed him in November. Then, Republicans changed a party rule so DeLay could retain his leadership post if indicted by the grand jury in Austin that charged three of the Texas Republican's associates.

When Republicans began their closed-door meeting Monday night, leaders were considering a rules change that would have made it tougher to rebuke a House member for misconduct. The proposal would have required a more specific finding of ethical violations.

Republicans gave no indication before the meeting that the indictment rule would be changed. Even more surprising was DeLay's decision to make the proposal himself.

Jonathan Grella, a DeLay spokesman, said DeLay still believed it was legitimate to allow a leader to retain his post while under indictment. But Grella said that by reinstating the rule that he step aside, DeLay was "denying the Democrats their lone issue. Anything that could undermine our agenda needs to be nipped in the bud."

Grella said Republicans did not know that DeLay would make the proposal. "He was doing some thinking and this was the conclusion he came to," the spokesman said.

Hastert made the proposal to retain the current standards of conduct.

Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., said, "It's a mark of a leader to take a bullet for the team and not for the team to take a bullet for the leader. I'm very glad we decided to stick with the rules."

Hastert spokesman John Feehery said that a change in standards of conduct "would have been the right thing to do but it was becoming a distraction."

Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, said Republicans pulled back on the discipline rule because "the issue simply became too hot for them to handle."

Democrats on Monday toughened their own indictment rule. Previously, only committee chairmen were required to step aside if indicted. Now, the same rule applies to House Democratic leaders.


Congressional watchdog groups joined House Democrats in opposition to a change, saying any such move would be for one purpose: to protect DeLay.

"All of this is designed to make one man truly above the law," said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said, "Tom DeLay is a poster boy for ethics problems in the House."

The Republicans had taken a lot of well-deserved criticism for their arrogant attempt to separate consequences from actions - from Houston to Washington (the state as well as the District), Florida to Minnesota and back to Florida again, and a twofer in Colorado. Despite all that, I'm still amazed they caved. May this be the beginning of a trend.

I like Josh Marshall's wrapup.

So the DeLay Rule is no more? After all the trouble of getting Republican bankbenchers to walk the plank in support of the thing? We've put some good bit of time into putting together our gallery of DeLay Rule Letter-Writer letters to constituents with all their mannered and far-fetched explanations for why they voted for the thing. And now this? The rug is pulled out of under them?

Oh the humanity ...


(Several editorial links courtesy of The Daily DeLay.)

UPDATE: Here's the Chron story, plus coverage from the NYT and WaPo.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 03, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack