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With the House Republican majority he helped create in a peril also largely of his making, embattled Texas Rep. Tom DeLay (R) announced Tuesday that he would resign from Congress this year.
DeLay’s decision marks the end of a career that helped transform nearly every aspect of Congressional politics, from lobbying and fundraising to redistricting, vote-counting and interparty relations.
The former Majority Leader’s withdrawal from the House — which will occur at a still undetermined date before mid-June — brought forth effusive public praise and private sighs of relief from his Republican colleagues, who paid tribute to DeLay’s achievements even as they hoped to rid themselves of the political effects of his burgeoning legal problems.
With DeLay’s announcement, the expected passage of 527 reform this week and consideration of a broader lobbying reform package coming after the easter recess, House Republicans hope to finally get ahead of the ethics stories that have plagued them for the entire election cycle.
“In the long run this is great news because the ‘Tom DeLay problem’ goes away,” said a House Republican leadership aide. “If he has further legal problems it will be on page A8 instead of A1 because he’s no longer a Member of Congress.”
After giving word of his decision to a select few media outlets Monday night, DeLay made his decision official Tuesday morning in a speech in Texas’ 22nd district, where he had faced a very difficult re-election race against ex-Rep. Nick Lampson (D).
“Because I care so deeply about this district and the people in it, I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign,” DeLay said, adding that he had “no regrets today, and no doubts. I am proud of the past. I am at peace with the present.”
DeLay informed Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) — whom DeLay first brought into the leadership and mentored for more than a decade — of his decision on Monday and told other leaders of the news later in the day, holding a conference call with his Texas GOP colleagues that night.
“Over the last 11 years, Tom DeLay has been a most effective Majority Whip and Majority Leader for our Conference, and I am sorry to see him leave the House of Representatives,” Hastert said in a statement, adding that DeLay “embodies the term steadfast and perseveres through even the toughest attacks on Republican ideals and principles.”
Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), a former DeLay enemy who succeeded the Texan in that post after DeLay was forced to step down, was similarly complimentary.