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DeLay to Resign From Congress

Tom DeLay
Rep. Tom DeLay, pictured above at a 2005 meeting of the National Republican Congressional Committee, told colleagues Monday night that he will not seek reelection this fall. (Jason Reed - Reuters)

Richard Cullen, DeLay's attorney, said yesterday evening that his client's decision to withdraw was "not connected to the criminal investigation."

Cullen said: "This decision was made before the Rudy plea. That didn't enter into it. It was personal and political."

DeLay's decision capped a long, difficult slide from power that began in September, when a Texas grand jury charged him with money laundering and campaign finance violations. Under House Republican rules, DeLay had no choice but to relinquish his post as majority leader, but he vowed to beat the charges and quickly return to power.

In the ensuing months, the separate federal corruption probe stemming from Abramoff's activities drew closer to DeLay, first eliciting a guilty plea from his former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, and then from Abramoff, whom DeLay once described as "one of my closest and dearest friends." Some House Republicans publicly stated that DeLay could not be allowed to return to the House leadership if his implication in the Abramoff scandal appeared inevitable.

In January, DeLay bowed to pressure from fellow Republicans and abandoned his quest to regain the majority leader's post. At that time he pledged to seek reelection, and he quickly snared a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

His renunciation of the leader's post touched off a scramble among Republicans eager to move past the DeLay era. A month later, Rep John A. Boehner (Ohio) upset DeLay's protege, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.), to win the highest position in the Republican conference, effectively ending the DeLay era of leadership that stretched back to Dec. 6, 1994, and the Republican Revolution.

When Republicans swept to power that year, DeLay capitalized on his fundraising prowess in a successful race for majority whip against Rep. Robert S. Walker (Pa.). DeLay, a former exterminator, had already been in Congress since 1985, and his fundraising largess, especially with the huge freshman class of 1994, helped him overtake Walker, who was Rep. Newt Gingrich's best friend.

DeLay became perhaps the most effective whip in modern House history. He corralled Republicans into a lock-step discipline that blocked much of President Bill Clinton's agenda in the 1990s, engineered Clinton's impeachment -- the first time a president had been impeached in more than 100 years -- and later turned the House into Bush's firewall against Senate Republican dissent.

Beyond those legislative accomplishments, DeLay worked to turn Washington's lobbying and business community into a bulwark of Republican support, dispensing legislative favors to those who played along. He was admonished by the House ethics committee in 1999 for retaliating against a trade association that hired a Democrat.

But his take-no-prisoners style did not begin to undermine his authority until 2002 -- when, in an unprecedented power play, he jumped into Texas politics to help secure a Republican majority in the state legislature, then personally pushed a redistricting plan to secure six additional House seats for his GOP majority. During the redistricting fight, Texas Democrats fled the state, in an ultimately futile effort to deny Republicans the quorum needed for a final vote.

In 2004, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct rebuked DeLay for asking federal aviation officials to track a plane ferrying Democrats to Oklahoma. The panel also rebuked him for improperly pressuring a fellow Republican to vote for the GOP's Medicare prescription drug benefit and for creating the appearance that Westar Energy Inc. received special consideration in exchange for campaign donations.

The Texas redistricting fight is seen by some as a crowning political achievement but also as his undoing. Travis County's Democratic prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, secured an indictment on charges that DeLay solicited business contributions, then laundered them through Washington and into the campaign coffers of Republican state legislative candidates. Texas law forbids business donations to state House campaigns.

The indictment cost DeLay his leadership post, but the redistricted map may have cost him his seat. DeLay gave up some GOP strongholds in his district to help elect new Republicans in neighboring districts, bringing his own majority down to 55 percent in the 2004 election. This election year promised to be far more difficult.

Staff writers R. Jeffrey Smith and Dan Balz in Washington and Sylvia Moreno in Austin contributed to this report.

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