Every ten years, after the US Census, states who have large enough population changes (either up or down) or even shifts from urban to suburban (or vice versa), must adjust the districting in their state in order to accurately represent the people of the state. In Texas, lawmakers could not agree on the redistricting plan by the deadline, so a three-judge panel did it for them. That initial change resulted in the Republican party gaining a couple seats in the legislature. According to the Democrats in the Texas state legislature, that wasn't enough for Tom DeLay, Texas representative in the US House and House Majority Leader. So when Republicans took control of the State House in 2002, they once again put redistricting back on the agenda. Their goal was to redraw the lines so that up to six more republicans could be elected to the US House of Representatives.
The Democrats didn't have enough votes to prevent the redistricting, so they took another tactic: twice, eventually. They left the state. Under cover of darkness, more than 50 Democratic lawmakers snuck into Ardmore, Oklahoma and refused to come back until Friday. Without a quorum (two thirds of the members of the House), the House was unable to do any business whatsoever. DeLay, who has since been admonished by the House Ethics Committee for his involvement in the entire issue, is said to have prompted a call to federal authorities in an attempt to find the missing legislators, arrest them and bring them back to Austin.1
The above story is one of just many that involve "strong arm" tactics by Tom DeLay, who in 1997 literally shoved Representative David R. Obey (D-Wisconsin) and referred to him as a "chickenshit." [SSR: Make sure you check out the rest of this site as they have some of the latest escapades of DeLay detailed very thoroughly.] DeLay is known for playing hardball (unfairly playing hardball no less, having been censured by the House Ethics Committee three times in the last several months) and for suggesting that everyone who opposes him is either a liar, pushing a Democratic (or liberal) agenda, or vindictive— anything to take the blame off Tom DeLay.
Some of DeLays tactics include:
- threats to "primary" Republican moderates who balk at being told how to vote
- making promises of future committee chairs (which to me sounds a whole lot like bribery) to members who vote as told
- requiring lobbyists to pressure other members of Congress
- a tactic called "catch and release", wherein moderates are permitted (in a rotating "schedule") to vote against the Republican party without reprisal as long as their vote is not needed to pass the bill. (One way to spot a "catch and release" vote is simple: if the vote passed by one vote, it was likely a case of "catch and release.")
DeLay's arrogance seems to know no bounds. In the late 90s, during the Gingrich era, DeLay saw Gingrich as the one with vision, Dick Armey (then the House Majority Leader) as the one who knew all about policy and himself as the one who got everything done. DeLay doesn't even care what legislation the White House wants passed— even the Bush White House. If DeLay doesn't want it to happen, it won't. In this most recent investigation by the House Ethics committee, DeLay was admonished on three separate occasions. Earlier this month (November, 2004), the same committee also wrote to Rep. Chris Bell, the freshman senator who had brought the charges of misconduct, a letter advising him that his charges had not followed procedure. Somehow, DeLay felt vindicated then and made some unfriendly comments about a freshman senator name Bell and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to the press.
But DeLay's problems now seem to extend beyond the House Ethics Committee. DeLay is being investigated by a grand jury in Texas for illegal campaign financing. Three of his close associates have already been indicted and DeLay himself has been indicted by two separate grand juries. In a stunning display of hypocrisy, the Republican Party made a "rule change" last week that would allow those in leadership positions who had been indicted to keep their positions. Ironically, the original rule that was just changed was enacted back in 1993 when Dan Rostenkowski (D), then chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, was indicted for a personal financial matter. At the time, Republicans were seeking a way to make all Democrats "guilty by association." Someone soon realized that the "other side" could conceivably apply that same line of reasoning, so they came up with a rule requiring that anyone who was indicted must step down from leadership positions. But the Republican Party is too grateful to DeLay right now, who everyone seems to think had a considerable hand in the increased majority that that party took in this last election. This rule change is his "payback". Delay is also being investigated for his role in redistricting fiasco mentioned above. [Author's Note: On 01/07/06, Tom DeLay announced he would no longer seek to retain his position as House majority leader.]
Unlike his Senate counterpart, DeLay has a long (and rather sordid) history as an elected official. In 1978, he was first elected to the Texas State House where he served until 1984, when he was elected to the US House and served as a deputy whip under then House Majority Whip Dick Cheney. While he has always been conservative in his outlook (if you ignore the reputation for drinking and partying that earned him the nickname "Hot Tub Tom"), he was not always in the pocket of the radical religious right. That didn't happen until 1985, when DeLay was "born again." Since then, DeLay has voted almost straight RRR all the way. He even saw conservatives like Newt Gingrich as being too centrist. But DeLay's position in the pocket of the radical religious right can no longer be denied or disputed. He has 100% voting records in 2003 for issues important to groups like:
- National Right to Life
- Campaign for Working Families (ties to James Dobson)
- Center for Reclaiming America (ties to James Kennedy)
- Family Research Council (ties to James Dobson)
- Concerned Women for America (founded by Beverly LeHaye— wife of Tim LeHaye, co-author of the "Left Behind" series)
His record with the Christian Coalition (founded by Pat Robertson) was 92%.
Compare that to his voting record for conservative groups like:
- National Tax Limitation Committee- 86%
- National Taxpayers Union— 64%
- Citizens Against Government Waste— 77%
- Republican Liberty Caucus- Economic— 95%
- Republican Liberty Caucus - Personal [civil rights]— 45%
- Republican Liberty Caucus - Combined [government reform]— 70%
- Conservative Index - The John Birch Society:
- Summer '03— 38%
- Spring '04— 25%
- American Conservative Union— 88%
Clearly, DeLay's loyalties lie with the radical religious right, who is trying to piggy-back their way into power on the coat-tails of conservative Republicans.
In early April, DeLay announced he would not seek re-election. But he denies that it has anything to do with the indictments against him or the ongoing investigations.
Why, when the actions of these government officials goes so against the grain of the American ideals and so full of hypocrisy, do so many people still support them? For an answer to that, please read my thoughts on the subject.
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