House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is refusing to take part in an event Wednesday night that will include a tribute to former Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Duke Cunningham (R-Calif.), saying the two men “have dishonored the House” and “are unfit to to be honored for their service.”
But former Rep. Ronald Sarasin (R-Conn.), president of the U.S. Capitol Historical Society, which is holding Wednesday’s tribute, said that DeLay would remain among the list of those whose names are publicly read out during the event.
Sarasin said he was willing to skip any mention of Cunningham, who is now serving time in prison for crimes committed in a wide-ranging bribery scandal. But Sarasin said he would not do the same for DeLay.
When told of Pelosi’s objections to having Cunningham’s name mentioned during the event, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) agreed, saying through a spokesman that “it would be inappropriate to have a convicted felon on the honor roll.”
Including DeLay and Cunningham, 37 lawmakers — five Senators and 32 House Members — have resigned or said they will depart Capitol Hill by the end of this year.
In a release, the society said it was honoring the lawmakers for “their hard work, service, time and the sacrifices made in upholding the office with which they were entrusted.”
Pelosi, Hastert and Senate President Pro Tem Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), along with a bipartisan group of leaders from both chambers, were slated to co-host the invitation-only event, which will be held in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall.
“Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that two of the former Members you have selected for tribute have dishonored the House,” Pelosi wrote in a July 14 letter to Sarasin. “Representative Randy ‘Duke’ Cunningham is currently serving the longest jail term that any former Member has received for crimes related to his service. Representative Tom DeLay left Congress under indictment and, by leaving, evaded a House Ethics Committee investigation into what The Washington Post referred to as a ‘criminal enterprise running out of the Majority Leader’s Office.’ I believe they are thus unfit to be honored for their service.”
Pelosi added: “I request that these Members be removed from the ‘honor roll’ for this event, or I can no longer lend my name as a co-host. This deletion must occur immediately so as not to undermine the honor for those whose service merited it.”
“We certainly understand her concerns,” Sarasin said in an interview Friday, adding that the reception will go forward whether Pelosi attends. “I certainly have no intention of canceling the event.”
Cunningham’s name will still be on the program for the gathering, Sarasin noted, since it was printed before Pelosi raised her objections.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.