Thomas D. DeLay: Majority Leader

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Thomas Dale "Tom" DeLay, an American Republican politician from Sugar Land, Texas, has served as Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2002 until he was forced to step down September 28, 2005, after a Texas grand jury indicted him and "two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme." [1]

DeLay is a key Republican strategist well-known for his conservative stances on foreign and domestic policy issues. [2]


After serving as Whip for eight years, DeLay was elected Majority Leader upon the retirement of Dick Armey in 2002. His tenure as Majority Leader has been marked by strong Republican party discipline in close votes, and the use of parliamentary political techniques to preserve his party's control of the House. DeLay has also been known to "primary" Republicans who resist his votes (threatening to endorse and support a Republican primary challenge to the disobedient Representative), and, like many of his predecessors in Congress, uses promises of future committee chairmanships to bargain for support among the rank and file members of the party.

Employing a method known as "catch and release," DeLay has allowed centrist or moderate conservative Republicans to take turns voting against controversial bills. If a Congressman says a bill is unpopular in his district, DeLay will only make him vote for it if his vote is necessary for passage; if his vote is not needed, he or she will be allowed to vote against the party without reprisal.

In the 108th Congress, a preliminary w:Medicare\ vote passed 216-215, a vote on Head Start passed 217-216, a vote on school vouchers for Washington, DC passed 209-208, and "Fast track," aka "trade promotion authority," passed by one vote as well. Some see these close votes as indicative of DeLay's strategy to enable the minimum number of Republicans to vote in favor of these bills. Both political supporters and opponents have remarked on DeLay's ability to sway the votes of his party.

DeLay is also noted for involving lobbyists in the process of passing House bills. Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, authors of Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America and Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush also authored a critical biography of DeLay which quotes a lobbyist as saying, "I've had members pull me aside and ask me to talk to another member of Congress about a bill or amendment, but I've never been asked to work on a bill - at least like they are asking us to whip bills now." (The Hammer, 93)

Like many successful incumbents, DeLay's ability to raise money gives him additional influence. Two-thirds of the way through the 2004 election cycle, DeLay raised $2.28 million compared to Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert's $1.68 million. Partly as a result of Tom DeLay's management abilities, the House Republican caucus under him has displayed unprecedented, sustained party cohesion.

In 2001 DeLay defied the president when he refused to extend Bush's tax cuts to people making between $10,500 and $26,625 a year; when reporters asked DeLay about what he would do about the low-income tax cuts DeLay simply stated it "ain't going to happen." When Ari Fleischer reiterated the president's desire for a low-income tax cut, DeLay retorted "the last time I checked they [the executive branch] don't have a vote."[3]

DeLay, acting against the president's wishes, initiated the "safe harbor" provision for MTBE in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, together with Rep. Joe Barton. [4]. This provision would have retroactively protected the makers of the gasoline additive from lawsuits. The provision was dropped from the final bill.

DeLay also championed the controversial Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005. Opponents of the law have criticized it as unduly favoring creditors over consumers, and have stated that the credit card industry spent millions of dollars lobbying in support of the act.

On economic policy, DeLay is rated a 95 out of 100 by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, and 95 to 100 by the United States Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby. On environmental policy, he earned ratings of 0 from the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters. He has been a fervent critic of the EPA, which he has called the "Gestapo of government." [5] DeLay has also sided with business owners over labor unions and is against gun control.

DeLay blames Senate Democrats and what he dubbed "BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) environmentalists" for blocking legislative solutions to problems such as the 2003 North America blackout. [6]

His Christian conservative viewpoint led him to vote 100% in line with the views of the National Right-to-Life Committee and 0% with the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League.

In foreign policy, DeLay's biographical note states, "Two dominant principles shape his response to foreign policy questions. DeLay believes the United States must strongly support democratic allies like Israel and Taiwan that share our commitment to liberty while aggressively promoting the expansion of freedom to closed societies. He also believes that tyrants and rogue regimes must be confronted before they harm American interests. In his view, the price of freedom remains an active opposition to evil and tyrannical governments."

DeLay has been a strong supporter of the State of Israel, saying, "The Republican leadership, especially that leadership in the House, has made pro-Israel policy a fundamental component of our foreign policy agenda and it drives the Democrat leadership crazy — because they just can’t figure out why we do it!" [7]

On a 2003 trip to Israel, DeLay toured the nation and addressed members of the Knesset. His opposition to land concessions is so strong that the right-wing National Union Party deputy Aryeh Eldad remarked, "as I shook his hand, I told Tom DeLay that until I heard him speak, I thought I was farthest to the right in the Knesset." [8] Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said "The Likud is nothing compared to this guy." (The Hammer, 236)

Following the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush, DeLay told a Texas television station that "with a bigger majority, we can do even more exciting things." [9]

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