Congress Watch: GOP leadership aims to hold off DeLay challenge
Rep. Tom Reynolds, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, has become the latest member of the House leadership to dampen efforts to hold January leadership elections.
In a letter to members, Reynolds said a leadership election "diverts the energy needed to both implement our important legislative agenda and prepare for the crucial 2006 elections." Insiders said he issued the letter because news reports suggesting he would run for a higher leadership position have prompted several members to ask him about his plans.
"Let's not allow anything to cause us to lose our focus as we end the current session," he wrote. The letter was meant to quell the talk of elections while encouraging members to continue backing sidelined former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who faces a trial in Texas on money-laundering charges. Ever since DeLay was indicted, a small group of members has agitated for elections to replace him. But the leadership doesn't want an election.
"At a time when our friend Tom DeLay is waging a battle against politically inspired court charges, this leadership speculation plays right to the goals of [prosecutor] Ronnie Earle and the Democrats, which is to harm Tom and our Republican Conference," Reynolds states in his letter. Leadership officials believe that DeLay now stands a better chance of regaining his position because of the elimination of his conspiracy charge.
They said that money laundering is extremely difficult to prove. Officials are hoping that DeLay's trial will be scheduled by March. "They'll wait that long to see what happens to DeLay," said one leadership aide.