There are three reasons why DeLay caved on the provision, which was enacted by the House Republican conference back in mid-November and was designed to protect him if he gets indicted for his role in the on-going investigation into corporate fund-raising in Texas politics: constituent anger; a measurable rebellion among House members that emboldened House Democrats; and the growing sense that DeLay is becoming politically radioactive.
The second reason DeLay & Co. backtracked was that they simply didn't have the votes to win on the floor of the House. While the DeLay Rule only applied to Republicans, Democrats smelled an opportunity and were preparing a straight up-or-down vote on whether House rules would allow any member of Congress to maintain a position in leadership after being indicted. That vote was to have happened Tuesday, the day after DeLay proposed revoking his rule.
I'm convinced that the Democrats wouldn't have pushed for this vote if it weren't for the prospects of winning. A blog I run, the Daily DeLay, tracked responses from members of Congress from constituents' inquiries and news reports and built the only comprehensive and public record of where members stood on the matter. In the end, 23 Republican members of Congress went on record as having voted against the DeLay Rule and 10 to 12 more said they missed the vote but would have opposed it if they were there, or were given another chance. Outgoing House Ethics Chairman Joel Hefley, R-Colo., issued a timely statement saying he was siding with the Democrats. The potential of cleaving off 20-30 Republicans emboldened the Democratic minority, which pressed to take the issue to the floor. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, DeLay retreated in defeat.
I must say, I'm rather amused by efforts to paint DeLay's capitulation on the DeLay Rule as a loss for Democrats. By his own words, DeLay's about-face on this issue had everything to do with political strategy and nothing whatsoever to do with recognizing the difference between right and wrong, so it's just a matter of time before he does something else as vile and venal. But if I'm wrong, and Tom DeLay really has learned his lesson and reformed himself into an honest and ethical person who respects the law, then I'm sure that Democrats everywhere would consider that to be a triumph for all Americans. Wouldn't you?Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 05, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack