Tom DeLay (R-Texas)
As the 108th Congress digs into the legislative agenda before it,
many experts will be monitoring the work of one Republican congressman
who may well hold the reins of power in the House -- new Majority
Leader Tom DeLay of Texas.
would say he is probably the most powerful majority leader in
recent history, and maybe ever," Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
said of DeLay.
by many to be one of the chief architects of Republican policy
in the House, DeLay worked hard to establish a solid conservative
bloc within the Republican Caucus. When 1994's "Republican
Revolution" vaulted the GOP into control, DeLay rode the
tide to become the party whip.
was in that role he established the hard-nosed style that would
earn him the nickname "The Hammer" -- a moniker about
which the 10-term congressman has never complained.
hammer," he recently told the New York Times, "is the
most important tool a builder has."
has also said his goal as whip and now majority leader has always
been to push his party's legislative agenda in the House and not
to serve as the GOP's front-man.
not afraid of getting on television, but at the same time, I don't
see my role as the national spokesman for the party," DeLay
told Ray Suarez. "I see my role as to get things done, make
sure... these bills pass and reflect what the American people
want us to do."
a few occasions his bare-knuckles style has worked against him.
In 1998, a story broke that DeLay, along with other Republican
leaders, had bullied the Electronic Industries Alliance over its
decision to hire former Democratic Rep. David McCurdy to serve
as its president. News reports at the time said the GOP leaders
in the House went so far at to hold up a vote on an intellectual-property
treaty that the EIA wanted and privately blacklisted their representatives
as a way of showing their displeasure.
House Ethics Committee went so far as to chastise DeLay for his
role in the situation, but his status as a man to be reckoned
with was forever established. The National Journal recently went
so far as to call the entire episode "a bit of Machiavellian
fight also left DeLay with a reputation that meant "The Hammer"
rarely had to actually nail anyone.
has lived off his image, he uses his reputation more often than
he uses the hammer," Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) explained recently.
DeLay has always maintained a strong sense of conservative values,
believing passionately in limited government, Judeo-Christian
faith and minimal taxation. It was these strongly held views that
first attracted DeLay to politics and away from a highly successful
Houston-area pest control business.
was as a business owner that DeLay first encountered the bureaucratic
system that would drive him into politics. Whether it was the
taxes he paid or the environmental regulations by which he had
to abide in dealing with pesticides, DeLay saw government as largely
unaccountable and unnecessarily intrusive.
increased use of risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses and
a moratorium on new regulations, DeLay's goal has been to change
the culture of federal regulatory agencies," The 2002 Almanac
of American Politics wrote about the congressman.
this philosophy, DeLay mounted his first political campaign, a
race for the Texas state legislature, in 1978. Based on diligent
campaigning, DeLay won the race, becoming the first Republican
legislator from Fort Bend County, Texas in the 20th century.
worked as a part-time legislator for the next six years until
the area's Democratic congressman left to mount an unsuccessful
campaign for U.S. Senate. Seizing his chance, DeLay ran for the
open seat. Building on the growing conservative tilt of the 22nd
District and Ronald Reagan's dominating presidential reelection
campaign, DeLay cruised to an easy victory.
Congress, DeLay worked with a mix of ideological purity and practical
politics. He is a tireless advocate for the space program -- his
district borders the Johnson Space Center -- and has worked to
improve highways within the Houston area. But in addition to his
constituent work, DeLay showed an ability and desire to climb
into the party leadership.
1989, during only his third term in the House, DeLay used his
burgeoning vote-counting skills to manage the campaign of Edward
Madigan for House minority whip. Although Madigan lost the election
by two votes to another rising star, Georgian Newt Gingrich, DeLay
had established himself as an excellent organizer and hard worker.
took that work ethic into a race for Republican Conference secretary
in 1992, meeting with scores of members before ousting the incumbent,
Bill Gradison of Ohio, from the post.
after, Republican leader Robert Michel made it clear he would
not run for reelection. This triggered a leadership race at many
levels. Gingrich announced he would run for leader and DeLay announced
he would run for whip, a move that would pit him against the more
senior Dick Armey, also of Texas. But everything changed in the
election of 1994. The Republicans trounced Democrats, picking
up 54 seats and taking control of the House for the first time
then became the House speaker and Armey cruised into the position
of majority leader. But DeLay faced a three-way race between himself,
Gingrich friend and ally Robert Walker of Pennsylvania and Bill
McCollum of Florida. DeLay again assiduously worked with his Republican
colleagues, in particular the newly elected members, discussing
their needs and seeking their support. In the end, DeLay walked
away with the position, garnering 119 votes to Walker's 80 and
very aggressive. I'm a hard-working, aggressive, persistent whip.
That's why I'm whip," DeLay said at the time.
DeLay became whip in 1995, Republicans won votes on trade promotion
authority, prescription drug legislation and President Bush's
tax cut, while losing only a handful of important measures.
more than just ensuring the votes are there for Republican priorities,
experts say DeLay heads the philosophic core of the Republican
is in spirit, in emotion, in his own intellect, very much in tune
with the 50 or 75 most conservative House Republicans who want
a revolution here," Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise
Institute told NPR's Weekend Edition in December. "They want
to draw some lines in the dust and effect some major changes,
and they are ebullient after the election and think they'll be
able to do it."
was born in the border town of Laredo and spent much of his childhood
in Venezuela, where his father drilled oil wells. He and his wife
have helped raise several foster children and have been active
in the Baptist Church in Sugar Land, Texas before he ever entered
politics. He is also the father of one daughter, a graduate of
-- By Lee Banville, Online NewsHour