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2006-04-04

The Hammer Leaving Congress: DeLay Announces Resignation Amid Controversy

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Republican Congressman Tom Delay has announced he is resigning and will give up his House seat within the next few months. The former House Majority Leader has been one of the most powerful–and controversial–Republicans on Capitol Hill. We speak with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D–TX) about DeLay’s resignation. [includes rush transcript]

Republican Congressman Tom Delay has announced he is resigning and will give up his House seat within the next few months. The former House Majority Leader has been one of the most powerful–and controversial–Republicans on Capitol Hill. DeLay announced his resignation just days after a former top aide, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty in connection to a lobbying scandal involving Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Last November, Delay’s former press secretary Michael Scanlon also plead guilty to related charges. Delay was up for his re-election but polls showed he would likely lose.

Last year Delay gave up his position as House Majority Leader after being indicted on criminal charges of conspiracy to violate Texas election laws. Federal investigators have also probed Delay’s personal dealings with Abramoff. DeLay’s wife worked for the lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group which had close ties to the Republican lobbyist.

  • Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D–TX)

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to turn to Democratic Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who’s called the immigration issue the civil rights issue of our time. She joins us in the studio in Houston. We welcome to you Democracy Now!, Congressmember Jackson Lee.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: It’s my pleasure. My pleasure to be with you this morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Before go to the issue of immigration I just wanted to get your comment on this latest breaking news, and that is the issue of Tom DeLay. Congressmember Tom DeLay, the former House Majority Leader, has announced he’s resigning and giving up his House seat within the next few months. He’s been, of course, one of the most powerful and controversial Republicans on Capitol Hill. Your response?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Well, anytime there is a personal tragedy, where someone has to give up something I believe they love and enjoy, it’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for him, his family and the state of Texas. However, he remains political to the end. And frankly, I hope that we will have an opportunity now to elect an individual who will be uniting in the state of Texas, who will work together with members of Congress for the betterment of this state and its people, as opposed to dividing us and attempting to conquer on the basis of divisive issues, such as redistricting and other issues that distract away from us serving the people of this state.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think it will mean for the Congress? Of course, he’s been forced out of the most powerful position in the House. Now, he’s leaving permanently, or he’s leaving now, giving up his seat.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Well, I don’t think it has as great an impact as one might think. I hope that the people of the 22nd District will have a vigorous campaign. Nick Lampson is the Democratic nominee, an outstanding former member of Congress who cares about the district and, I believe, would make an excellent candidate.

As relates to the United States Congress, one of the issues that Americans have been talking about for a number of years now since I’ve been in is the divide in our congress, the bitterness in our congress. And it keeps us from finding unity around issues that helps to move America forward. Obviously, Democrats want to take back this congress, so that we can bring some civility back. And I’m hoping that maybe amongst Democrats and Republicans, we’ll finally realize that every issue should not be partisan, every issue should not be divisive, that frankly we have issues that address the quality of life for all Americans, and we need to address those questions, whether it’s the Iraq war, whether it’s the question of immigration, whether it’s the question of full funding of education. Americans, I think, are tired of divisiveness, and they frankly want to us move forward.

The question will be, for any us who take the majority in 2006, of how we can be the kind of uniting factor that allows real issues to be discussed and the real issues of the American public, who are crying out for change to be our highest priority. I think with Tom DeLay’s departure, maybe we’ll have an opportunity to do that.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you see the new Majority Leader, John Boehner, as taking any kind of a different path than DeLay?

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Well, I think that the Republican conference, the members of Congress, certainly individually, we’ve had opportunities to work together. But, frankly, I think the leadership has to ask themselves the question after going on the same pathway that really was set by the Majority Leader, the former Majority Leader, or whether or not they are willing to collaborate. Leader Pelosi has offered a number of hands of, if you will, good will to the Republicans. And frankly, I don’t know if they’ve been accepted.

The whole issue of corruption is one that the Republicans have to deal with mostly. And they have to deal with it in a way that confronts the color of corruption that has existed amongst them, the issues dealing with the Iraq war, not allowing us to have a full debate on that question, as to how we can reconcile the tragedies of it going on in Iraq and bring our soldiers home with dignity and still allow the Iraqi people to govern. They continue to restrict Democratic amendments, Democratic substitutes, amendments that we would ask to be debated in the Congress out of fairness. If we continue to have extended votes like we did on the Medicare, then would I question whether or not there is a change and whether or not we need a complete change, and that is, to ensure that Leader Pelosi will be the Speaker and we begin to construct an even-handed process in the United States House. It can be done. I don’t know if this present leadership is prepared to do so at this time.

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