|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
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."
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