Post Politics Hour

Shailagh Murray
Washington Post Congressional Reporter
Monday, January 9, 2006; 11:00 AM

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Washington Post Congressional reporter Shailagh Murray was online Monday, Jan. 9, at 11 a.m. ET .

The transcript follows.


Alexandria, Va.: Assuming that he doesn't end up in jail and assuming that he wins reelection, will Mr. DeLay end up "just another Congressman" ? Or will he still be able to exert his extraordinary influence ?

Shailagh Murray: Good morning everyone. Lots of news these days, so let's start with the House.

Those are some big "what ifs" from Alexandria. But, let's say DeLay is still in the House a year from now. That would suggest that the legal threats he faces -- the Abramoff investigation, the Texas campaign finance indictments, the redistricting case -- are all more or less hollow. That's what DeLay is claiming now, and even his supporters don't really believe him, but if he's right, and he survives legally on every front -- I doubt he would wind up as just another congressman.


Austin, Tex.: Hey Shailagh!

So, what is the buzz on the Hill? What will happen to the GOP now that DeLay has had to step down? What were the (true)circumstances that led to his decision? How long will he continue the ruse that he will be running for his seat again in November?

As a Texan who lost my Congressman due to Mr. DeLay's forced redistricting, I must say I am glad to see him go. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy!

Shailagh Murray: Hello Austin,

It's been quite a while since we've seen the power struggle that is about to unfold among House Republicans, and it's going to say a lot about what these folks are made of. There are plenty of potential leaders to choose from -- 231 to be exact, because I'm sure every GOP member believes he or she has what it takes. Republicans must now decide whether to end of the DeLay era of lockstep discipline, rigid partisanship and the "pay to play" obsession with fundraising. None of the main candidates for majority leader are DeLay facsimiles, but there are fairly big differences between them that could translate into major changes in the House, with significant policy and political implications.


Wilmington, N.C.: Is Babington an avid hunter? I ask because his Supreme Court hearings article today employs numerous assault and gun metaphors and they really jumped out at me. Have I missed the Democrat talk of "attacking" and "ammunition"? I thought I was paying attention.

Shailagh Murray: Actually he's a champion marksman who grew up hunting wild boar in his native NC. He's the only Capitol Hill reporter with a gun rack -- or a Ford pickup, for that matter.


Silver Spring, Md.: Why did the Senate Judiciary committee take up the Alito hearings before the NSA issue? Was significant pressure put on Specter to get Alito confirmed before the dirty laundry got aired?

Shailagh Murray: I believe that was a scheduling issue -- the Alito hearings were on the calendar well before the NSA case arose.


Brunswick, Maine: I thought DeLay had a strong Democratic challenger for the November election even before his Abramoff connection became front page news. Is this not so?

Shailagh Murray: Yes, Mr. DeLay's re-election is by no means assured. He may also have a Republican primary challenger. The speculation is that, whatever the case with his various legal problems, he will pursue his re-election for as long as possible, if for no other reason than to raise money for his defense fund.


Knoxville, Tenn.: Will the MSM reveal that Rep. Dennis Hastert and Sen. Bill Frist apparently don't understand the real significance of this whole Abramoff scandal. Hastert has picked Roy Blunt and Frist has chosen Rick Santorum to write up new rules regarding lobbyists even though these two are probably the least qualified in Congress to do anything on lobbying ethics. Blount is still under suspicion for the special rules benefiting R.J. Reynolds that he tried to sneak into a bill on behalf of his then girlfriend (now his wife) who at the time was a lobbyist for R.J. Reynolds tobacco. And Santorum is the main person in the Senate supporting the "K'" street project - a move by republicans to make sure only Republicans are hired by any Washington lobbyists.

Shailagh Murray: These are more or less the Democratic talking points, and the question is whether they are resonating -- on the one hand Republicans definitely fear that the "culture of corruption" drumbeat is causing them real damage, which is why DeLay departed so readily -- but on the other hand, they can't be that worried, because they're not exactly hoisting the reform banner with the examples that you mentioned.


Washington, D.C.: Lampson or DeLay victory in November?

Shailagh Murray: I would put my chips on DeLay not being on the ballot in November.


Albuquerque, N.M.: The murder of NYT reporter-editor, David E. Rosenbaum is NOT even mentioned front page of Post this morning. Odd that the killing of a fellow journalist does not rate front page coverage...

The intimidation of the press continues...

Generally, robbers take your money but don't kill you, but assassins will take the money to try to make the crime look like a robbery.

Shailagh Murray: Well, a lot of people are killed by violent crime in D.C., so it's not exactly a huge news event -- though the circumstances are definitely unusual. That said, David was a terrific man who was beloved by those of us who knew him and worked with him, and there is definitely a dark cloud over D.C. newsrooms today.


Reston, Va.: Hi Shailagh,

I would like to know what impact you think all of the stories over the weekend from the Tribes where they generally say, before Abramoff came along, the Tribes gave to Democrats because, being poor, they knew Democrats had their interests at heart, will have on the attempts to make the scandal component "bi-partisan." It was quite clear from reading all of the stories in papers across the country that the stolen and laundered money went to Republicans, while the normal campaign continuations, without violations of law went to Democrats.

Shailagh Murray: It's hard to fathom that whole side of this story. The vast sums of money that are involved are so off the scale of typical corporate contributions -- is it possible we may have reached critical mass with slot machines?


Los Angeles, Calif.: What Senator would make the best stand up comedian? I'm thinking Santorum or Sessions. Your opinion?

Shailagh Murray: You're a stand up comedian!

There is no bigger group of deadbeats than the U.S. Senate. Among the few amusing members, Conrad Burns of Montana would be my pick.


Norfolk, Va.: Hi Shailagh, thanks so for these daily chats, I love 'em!

Could you do me a favor and specifically define the term "K Street"? I get the idea that it means the lobbying industry and that's because their offices are mostly located on K St., but I'm tired of guessing - what's the deal?

Shailagh Murray: Hello Norfolk, and that's a good question. A dumb assumption on our part to fling around terms like that.

You're right, though, K Street is shorthand for the lobbying industry; it refers to the main street that runs through the downtown D.C. office district. Alexander Strategy, the firm run by former DeLay staffers Tony Rudy and Ed Buckham, is located at the very end of K Street in Georgetown, but Greenberg Traurig, where Abramoff worked, is on Connecticut Ave, right where it intersects with K Street. So there you have it -- but "Connecticut Avenue" would make an even worse title for a overwrought HBO reality show.

Probably adding to your confusion is that we use the term K Street broadly -- to describe the business community's policy or legislative interests, as in, "K Street is all over the asbestos bill" and as a cash register for politicians -- because when lobbyists aren't trying to shove through favorable legislation, they're organizing fundraisers for the same lawmakers.

Are you as jaded as I am yet?

Have a good couple of weeks everyone, Cheers, Shailagh


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