Friday, January 14, 2005

Republican Party Machine Bands Together Behind DeLay

Taking a page from the White House, House Republicans have decided to replace the chairman of the ethics committtee, apparently because he didn't fall in line when the GOP rallied behind House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) told The Washington Post that his fellow leaders are "probably going to boot me." Congressional aides said that Hefley has crossed DeLay so many times the two barely speak.

Hefley and his ethics committee admonished DeLay (R-Tex.), the second-ranking House leader, three times in a week last year for political and financial practices that critics called improper. The committee said DeLay had not broken any law or House rule.

"I'm not naive enough to not know that there are some folks that are very upset with me because they think we were too harsh with DeLay," Hefley told the Post.

***

A backgrounder on DeLay's ethics problems:

Last summer, DeLay was investigated for ethical violations stemming from complaints filed by Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).

In September, the House Ethics committee found DeLay had violated House rules in 2003 in his efforts to have a health care bill passed. The committee admonished DeLay for having made an offer to Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.), who was retiring, that would have had DeLay endorse Smith's son for the seat if Smith voted in favor of the bill.

Also that month, a grand jury indicted three members of Texans for a Republican Majority, incluidng the executive director, on charges of money laundering and accepting illegal campaign contributions. DeLay has said the investigation and indictments are politically motivated by District Attorney Ronnie Earle. Earle alleges that the three Delay associates and eight corporations violated the law by illegally funneling money into 2002 Texas Legislature races.

In October, the House Ethics Committee admonished DeLay for violations stemming from the Bell complaint. It said the DeLay should not have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to track a small plane that he believed was carrying Texas state Democratic legislators. It also admonished DeLay for his dealings with Westar Energy, citing memos from Westar stating that they believed $56,000 in donations to DeLay's PAC and others wold get them a "seat at the table."

In November, House Republicans changed an early 1990s rule that would force House Leaders to step down if indicted. But the Republicans reversed themselves in January, after a protest from more moderate voices in the party.

(Thanks to Wikipedia for help with the timeline)

***

New chairs are named at the start of each Congress. House aides told the Post that unless Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) changes his mind, Hefley will not return.

"His time is up," said a leadership aide who spoke to the Post on the condition on anonymity.

***

So once again, the conservative wing of the House GOP is ridding itself of any thoughts of moderation. It's a repeat of what happened in November, when Senate Republicans insisted that moderate Arlen Specter (R-PA) fall in step or lose out on becoming Senate Judiciary Chair. It's a repeat of what happened in the House in November, when conservative Ernest Istook (R-Okla.), in appropriating money in the transportation section of the recent omnibus spending bill, punished 21 Northeastern moderate Republicans who wrote him a letter in support of $1.8 billion of spending for Amtrak.

Folks, the conservative wing of the GOP congressional team is making things clear. Do it our way, or we will hurt you (politically). They are acting like their boss in the White House, who has chosen to rid himself of moderate voices like Secretary of State Colin Powell, in favor of people who show less independence and ask fewer questions.

What a fun two years the GOP has in store for our polarized nation. If moderate Republicans are too out of step to be part of the equation, what does that say for the rest of us?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The farther right the repiublicans move, the larger the opportunity for the democrats to get their act together and move moderate to grab the center. Let's see if they can open their ears and eyes and take advantage. This is the chance because if they dont, it is likely the next republican candidate for president will not be as far right as this one wants to be.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The conservatives would love nothing more than to see the Democrats become a centrist party.

Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. Democrats cover a wide spectrum of political views, and often disagree with each other. Conservatives look at that and point and mock and say how disorganized the party is, and how it lacks focus. Democrats would say it's a positive, that independent voices working together make us smarter, and thus stronger.

I imagine the Democrats' next presidential candidate will be a conservative Democrat, such as Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia -- although perhaps even then, the veep candidate would be a liberal.

But any Democratic leader understands the party spectrum. The Republican leadership would do well to learn from that -- instead of trying to squash those moderates who wish to disagree with the conservative bent of Bush, DeLay and Hastert.

6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Point is the dems need to grab the center. totally disagree with you. there is so much hatred on the far left of republicans, those votes go democrats even if you put a murderer up as the candidate. the center gives the dems the presidency. wake up folks.

6:25 PM  

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