House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) implored Republican senators yesterday to stick with him while he addresses questions about his travel and his dealings with lobbyists, as House Democrats unveiled plans to try to make ethics a defining issue for the year.
As DeLay left a 90-minute luncheon with his party's senators, he told reporters that his basic message was "Be patient; we'll be fine."
Giving a preview of the approach he is likely to take when he appears before reporters this afternoon, DeLay dismissed questions about his travel and his relationships with lobbyists as "the Democratic agenda."
Attendees said DeLay, in extremely brief remarks, told the senators that, if asked about his predicament, they should blame Democrats and their lack of an agenda. The attendees said DeLay thanked Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) for supportive comments on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday. Santorum had said that DeLay is "very effective in leading the House," but he also noted that the Texas lawmaker needs to "lay out what he did and why he did it."
The House ethics committee, which has been unable to organize for the year because of Democratic objections to rules changes for investigations that the Republicans forced through in January, is set to meet today. Democrats said they will renew their efforts to prod the full House to repeal the changes.
"This is a process we can't abide," Rep. Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.), the committee's top Democrat, said in an interview. "I certainly don't want to participate in an ethics committee the rules of which are so significantly flawed that they undermine the process and bring into question the legitimacy of any decisions."
Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.) said after meeting with other lawmakers that there was "an outpouring of support for Tom DeLay" because Republicans think the questions "are just partisan political hits organized by all the leftist groups in Washington."
Also today, Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plan to hold a news conference charging Republicans with abuse of power.