I am second to none in my admiration for Congressman Tom DeLay (R-TX) and what he has done with that unruly crew known as the House Republican Conference. Now DeLay, awaiting a trial on money-laundering in Texas, is no longer Majority Leader, at least for now. His position as Majority Leader was assumed by House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO).
To be blunt about it (pun intended), the Congressman from Missouri is getting a bum rap. Blunt has had problems getting some bills through the House. One appropriations bill was defeated and another bill was pulled from the calendar when, at the last minute, it was clear that the votes were not there to pass it.
Blunt, it is rumored, doesn’t have the clout that DeLay had and thus can’t keep his people together to pass these bills. Although Blunt is a good friend, were the rumor true I would admit it. It is not true. Circumstances have changed. That is why Blunt appears to be struggling and the DeLay machine appears to have rolled along.
From 1995, when DeLay became Majority Whip, to the indictment earlier this year, when DeLay stepped down from the Leadership, DeLay always secured some Democratic votes. Once he complained that the Democratic Caucus so pressured its Members to vote party line that he counted only seven Democratic defectors voting with the Republicans. Regularly over 20 Democrats would vote with DeLay. Sometimes on controversial measures the count was much higher. That masked Republican defectors to the Democrats. On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) vote, for example, an equivalent number of Republicans and Democrats defected. ANWR easily was passed because Democrats who voted for ANWR balanced the defections of more than 20 Republicans who opposed ANWR.
Were you to be on Capitol Hill these days you would understand that Democrats now believe they will control the 110th Congress. I have no proof, but I am willing to wager that the Democratic Leadership has warned the defectors that if they want to chair subcommittees or committees in 2007 or if they want to remain on certain key committees they now had better vote with the Democratic Leadership.
Suddenly Blunt finds himself having to get through tough measures, such as the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 cutting $50 billion in spending, with only Republican votes. Yes, Republicans control the House 232 to 202, with one Independent who is a Socialist voting with the Democrats. Subtract 20 Republicans, add zero Democrats and the magic 218 majority just isn’t there.