Although he was forced to relinquish his leadership post Sept. 28, after the first of two indictments for alleged involvement in money laundering related to the 2002 Texas election, DeLay continues to use an office in the leadership suite, occasionally presides over private meetings with committee chairmen and lobbies members during key floor votes.
Also, the Texas Republican’s staff continues to maintain the House schedule and dash off memos to lawmakers, ostensibly as employees of a majority leader’s office without a full-fledged majority leader. And on his trips to the sheriff’s office for an Oct. 20 booking in Houston and a court appearance in Austin on Oct. 21, DeLay was accompanied by three bodyguards from the Capitol Hill police force, just as he was when he was majority leader.
“My issue is having an indicted former leader hanging around the leadership offices,” said one House Republican, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of DeLay’s remaining authority.
“Tom DeLay should not be in a position of authority,” said Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who called for DeLay’s resignation from the House leadership even before he was indicted. “He should not be calling the shots or driving the agenda, and if he is, that would be unfortunate.”
This can’t go on this way indefinitely,” said Rep. Charles Bass (R-N.H.), a leader of House Republican moderates who wants an election in January to fill DeLay’s slot. “We need to get this leadership issue behind us.”
A series of faction meetings and private discussions last week could culminate in a face-off today, when House Republicans gather for a half-day retreat at the Library of Congress to air their grievances.
DeLay’s presence at a series of delicate talks on budget cutting last month with committee chairmen left some senior lawmakers dumbfounded, confused and even angry that a demand as sensitive as billions of dollars in spending cuts would come from a member without a leadership post or even a senior committee position.