|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
ARDMORE, Okla., May 15, 2003
Rep. Paul Moreno, far right, joins other Texas Democratic Representatives in prayer at a hotel in Ardmore, Okla. (AP)
"Way to go. Stand your ground."
A note Texas Democrats claim to have received from Willie Nelson
Congressman Tom DeLay, a Republican, apparently asked a staff lawyer if federal officers could intervene in the dispute. (AP)
(CBS) Several Democratic Texas Congress members have asked federal law enforcement agencies to disclose any help they gave to state officials trying to locate Democratic state lawmakers who've fled the state to block a vote on redistricting.
Most House Democrats secretly left the state Sunday night to prevent Republicans from pushing through a bill that would redraw boundaries for U.S. congressional districts that were already adjusted once after the 2000 census.
The Democrats fled Texas to avoid the reach of state troopers, who had been told to round them up, until that order was rescinded Tuesday night.
House rules allow for the arrest of members who intentionally thwart a quorum — which requires at least 100 of the body's 150 members to be present.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that an arm of the Homeland Security Department was asked by what the paper called "Texas law enforcement" to locate an airplane belonging to former Democrat House Speaker Pete Laney.
The agency tried to find the plane but failed.
All but one of Texas' congressional Democrats demanded that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge and FBI Director Robert Mueller disclose whatever help was provided.
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, the driving force behind the Texas redistricting effort, said Tuesday that he consulted an attorney in his office to determine for Craddick whether FBI agents and U.S. marshals could be used to arrest the Democrats.
"This ought not to be Tom DeLay's personal police force," said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.
Nearly 300 miles from the Texas Capitol, the 51 "missing" House Democrats are whiling away their days at a Holiday Inn, chatting on cell phones by the pool, snacking at Denny's and caucusing in a conference room.
The standoff compelled the speaker to adjourn the House on Wednesday so Republicans could do committee work. Democrats say they won't be back until Friday, by which time the redistricting bill will die unless two-thirds of the House approves it.
"You get to a point where you draw a line in the sand and make a stand on principle," said Democratic state Rep. Pete Gallego. "We've reached our limit."
Republicans are furious the redistricting bill and hundreds of others are being lost to the ticking clock; the regular session ends June 2. "This is not democracy, it is extortion," said GOP Rep. Dianne White Delisi.
The Young Conservatives of Texas released a list of the "Top 10 Differences Between Fugitive Texas Democrats and Saddam Hussein." "Saddam ran an oil-for-food program. Texas Fugitive Dems are running a blackmail-for-quorum program," was number three.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry accused the Democrats of jeopardizing bills that address the multibillion-dollar state budget, children's health care and homeowners insurance. "I don't think the people of the state of Texas appreciate the work stoppage, the walking away from the important issues of the day," he said.
Others in Texas and Oklahoma are hailing the Democratic House members as heroes. Dozens of Democrats have flocked to Ardmore, about 30 miles north of the state line, wearing patriotic attire and bearing fruit baskets, balloons, cookies and barbecue.
Several newspapers across Texas also support the lawmakers.
"If they (House Democrats) believe their principles are worth fighting for, and they have only one means to fight for them, it's difficult to fault them for it," the Houston Chronicle said in an editorial.
Democrats deny that their absence threatens important state programs. They said Wednesday evening that they offered to come home immediately if House Speaker Tom Craddick promises not to bring up redistricting.
Later Wednesday, several Democrats said they had not gotten a reply from Craddick, who has repeatedly said he won't drop the redistricting proposal.
But the lawmakers said they had received bandannas, whiskey and a note from country singer Willie Nelson, who wrote "Way to go. Stand your ground."
Bush supports ban
Wednesday, May 14, 2003 Posted: 11:29 AM EDT (1529 GMT)
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says there are not enough votes to renew a ban on assault weapons.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The House of Representatives will not extend a 1994 assault weapons ban set to expire next year despite President Bush's call for its renewal, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said.
"The votes in the House are not there to reauthorize it," said DeLay, a Texas Republican and staunch foe of gun control.
The 1994 ban on military-style assault weapons expires in 2004 unless Congress renews it. Bush, who generally opposes additional gun control legislation, has said he believes the ban should remain in effect.
A group of mostly Democratic senators last week opened a drive to get the extension passed in the Senate, and called on Bush to help.
They said they were optimistic it would clear the Senate but that it would need active help to win in the House, where pro-gun sentiments are stronger and Delay has considerable control over the agenda.
The influential National Rifle Association opposes extending the ban that applies to semi-automatic assault weapons like the Uzi and the AK-47 that have high ammunition capacity.
Another top NRA priority, a bill giving gun makers and gun sellers broad protection against lawsuits, recently passed the House and is pending in the Senate.
WASHINGTON - U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Tuesday he would not propose a last-minute congressional redistricting plan to the state House when it takes up the issue at the end of the week.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said in his weekly briefing with reporters in Washington that he backs the map that was to be considered Tuesday evening by a state House committee. He said that map was likely to be considered by the full state House on Friday or Saturday. By the time it becomes law, Texas could have eight or nine Hispanic members in Congress and an additional black district, he said.
The Texas House Committee on Redistricting was considering a tweaked map by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford. It was not clear when a vote would occur. The committee continued to meet late Tuesday.
"We had a state Legislature that could not draw a map so they deferred to three judges ... Those three judges did not consider the representation of minorities in Texas or the representation of the majority party and that is the Republican Party," DeLay said.
U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, criticized the map DeLay supports, saying it is bizarre and has strangely shaped districts that will not stand up to court scrutiny.
"This is a political, self-serving map by DeLay, who is trying to defeat as many Democrats as he can," Frost said.
DeLay said he expects the new map will lead to a voting rights lawsuit.
Frost said the new map does as much harm to minorities and Texas communities as the old map.
DeLay has pushed the Legislature to redraw Texas' 32 congressional districts, now that Republicans are in charge of the state House and Senate, and hold every major public office. Texas' congressional delegation has 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans. DeLay said he believes Texas should have 20 Republicans.
"I'm the majority leader and we want more seats," DeLay said.
Democrats have criticized DeLay for not making public the map of congressional districts that he has drawn. Democrats feared that DeLay would not release it until it was too late for a public hearing to be held.
Democrats also have accused DeLay of using Hispanics and blacks to reach his goal. Tom Eisenhauer, Frost's spokesman, said the map DeLay supports weakens Hispanic voting strength. The proposal splits Hispanic voters and puts them in safe Republican districts or packs them in existing minority districts, Eisenhauer said. He also said it does not increase Hispanic majority districts.
Texas has six Hispanics in Congress and seven Hispanic districts. Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, who is white, represents one of those districts. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, also has a majority Hispanic district, but does not win a majority of that vote. For that reason, Democrats say Bonilla, although Hispanic, is not the preferred candidate among Hispanics.
Texas has two black members. DeLay said another predominantly black district could be drawn in Harris County.
Nina Perales, attorney for Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, said the plan DeLay supports displaces several incumbent Hispanics in Congress and does not add a Hispanic district. But she said Democrats could have avoided this if they had created new majority Hispanic districts in the initial redistricting round.
"By insisting instead on maintaining the districts of fragile Anglo Democrats, they set themselves up for a Republican gerrymander and can't fall back on Latino districts that would have been protected under the Voting Rights Act," she said.
DeLay said he is not worried about replacing Democrats who hold leadership or high-ranking positions in Congress with inexperienced freshmen Republicans. For example, Rep. Charlie Stenholm, D-Stamford, is the ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee.
"They may look at themselves as important. I look at them as rather irrelevant," DeLay said. "The ranking members don't vote with the majority of Texans in almost every issue that comes to the floor," DeLay said.
Frost countered that DeLay is placing partisanship over what is good for Texas.
Meanwhile in Austin, Republican comments about minorities continue to stir controversy. Hispanic House members criticized state Rep. Joe Crabb, R-Atascocita, for saying he could not hold hearings in non-English speaking areas of the state.
Last month, DeLay angered minority lawmakers who criticized his redistricting efforts when he said that by opposing his plan they were more Democrat then minority and were not representing "their people."