In a brazen and transparent act of hypocrisy, this week, U.S. House Republicans made changes to the party’s rules in order to keep their majority leader, Tom DeLay of Texas, in his post. A Republican committee decided to rewrite the rule, which previously stated that House leaders must automatically step down from their leadership positions if they are indicted in court. These actions were sparked by the threat of DeLay being forced to vacate his post because of recent charges against him for using illegal money to help Republicans win Texas state legislative races in 2002. The decision to change the rule, made by no less transparent a method than a voice vote of party members, is another example of the Republican Party’s immoral support for its scandal-ridden House leader, who should be forced to step down as majority leader even barring an indictment.
The House Ethics Committee has admonished DeLay several times in the 20 years that he has served in the House, including twice this fall, that he has served been in the House. Earning the nicknamed the “Hammer” for his tough political tactics, DeLay has shown little remorse for the continuous stream of unethical allegations against him.
DeLay may face charges of using illegal money to help his party win state legislative races in 2002 and using those victories to implement a redistricting plan in Texas, which gave the Republican Party five new seats in the House in this past election. The Texas prosecutor handling the case, Ronnie Earle, has already indicted three of DeLay’s political associates.
Under the party’s old rule, adopted in 1993 to draw attention to the legal troubles of Democratic leaders at the time, House leaders were required to step down from leadership positions if they were indicted on federal or state charges for crimes that carried a possible sentence of two or more years in prison. But DeLay had the audacity to respond to what can only be called blatant hypocrisy on the part of his fellow House Republicans by saying, Republican lawmakers “fixed the rules so that Democrats cannot use our rules against us.”
Under the new rule, an indicted leader can keep his position while other party leaders review the charges. The party committee will review the felony indictment to determine whether it was politically motivated and then could recommend possible action to be taken against the leader.
These actions have rightly made many Republicans and Democrats alike weary. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has spoken out against the changes saying, “Republicans have reached a new low.” But even Republican Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut called the change “a mistake.”
The Republican Party needs to take a serious look at its leader and determine if making drastic moves at the expense of its reputation is really the path it wishes to tread. Even if he is not indicted for these recent scandals, DeLay should step down, but surely in the event DeLay is indicted, his Republican colleagues should force him to do as the prior rule stated and step down from his leadership position. The Republican Party should not be so quick to protect a leader whose time as a leader in the House has lasted far too long and who is very likely to embarrass the party yet again.