April 05, 2006,
With the resignation of Rep. Tom DeLay after his two decades in the House, Congress will be losing its most effective conservative.
During DeLay’s ten years as House majority whip and leader, his victories on welfare and tort reforms, the pro-life agenda, tax and spending cuts, and foreign and defense policies were a credit to his legislative mastery. The spending excesses of recent years turned some conservatives against him, but his unparalleled ability to enact their agenda will stand as his legacy. He has also done more than any other Republican to retain and expand the GOP majority in the House most notably through a Texas redistricting that erased Democratic gerrymandering and added five Republicans to that state’s delegation.
DeLay’s effectiveness made his removal from power a top priority of the Democratic party. The “Attack DeLay” strategy finally paid dividends when Austin district attorney Ronnie Earle, a liberal Democrat, indicted the majority leader on money-laundering charges. Earle’s investigation had all the hallmarks of a trumped-up political case, but House rules required that DeLay step down from the leadership a temporary move that became permanent when Earle plunged the case into a morass of pre-trial motions and appeals.
The ever-widening Jack Abramoff corruption scandal gave DeLay’s critics even more ammunition when it claimed his former aides Michael Scanlon and Tony Rudy. DeLay showed poor judgment in his association with these men, but conservatives had no better allies than the many talented, dedicated, and honest aides who also worked for DeLay. Nor should we forget that so far the investigation has not uncovered any evidence of wrongdoing by DeLay himself.
But his opponents have not and will not wait for a jury to decide before delivering their own verdict. Nick Lampson, the Democrat running for DeLay’s seat, based his entire campaign on smearing DeLay and built a huge war chest from the contributions of Democratic contributors eager to fell the majority leader. Despite DeLay’s impressive victory in the Republican primary, polls taken within his camp showed that he was running about even with Lampsen. After sizing up the situation, DeLay made the right call. He denied Democrats the opportunity to make the race or the mid-term elections about him.
DeLay told National Review’s Byron York on Tuesday, “I will be out doing what I do best, and that is strategizing to lead the conservative cause and elect Republicans.” DeLay recognized that he could be more effective outside of Congress than within it, and we commend him for his willingness to put the interests of the conservative cause ahead of his reelection hopes. Once again, he took one for the team.