Time for DeLay to step down

Congress would be better off with DeLay relegated to rank-and-file membership.

During the weekend, Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., became the first Republican to join a bevy of congressional Democrats in calling for Tom DeLay, R-Texas, to resign his position as House majority leader. In the wake of renewed charges of ethics violations and inflammatory rhetoric aimed at the federal judiciary, stepping down seems the least he could do.

DeLay will have to answer to his constituents in 2006 to retain his spot in Congress. But DeLay is no longer deserving of the leadership position he holds. That change should be made now.

Despite a well-cultivated image of moral superiority, DeLay has accumulated an impressive number of ethical lapses in recent years. The House Ethics Committee has formally admonished the majority leader on three separate occasions, most recently for improperly involving the Federal Aviation Administration in a Texas legislative dispute over redistricting. Another formal rebuke stemmed from his cozy relations with a cadre of energy executives seeking to influence federal energy legislation in the fall.

DeLay has also made headlines in recent days for two foreign travel excursions allegedly funded by lobbying and business interests. He was one of several lawmakers to enjoy an all-expenses-paid trip to Scotland for a round of golf at the world-renowned St. Andrews Links course.

That jaunt came courtesy of a lobbyist now under investigation by the Department of Justice for influence-peddling and a Texas American Indian tribe with big stakes in the gaming industry. The other trip was a 1997 journey to Russia funded by business interests lobbying for the Russian government.

If those walks on the smarmy side aren’t enough, DeLay might yet be indicted for his role in a Texas fund-raising affair involving illegal corporate donations. Three close political aides of DeLay are already under indictment.

All this further tarnishes the image of Congress and adds to the cynicism that greets political leaders of all stripes today. Repairing that image starts with scandal-free leadership in the House, and that means it’s time for DeLay to go.