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Tom DeLay on Accountability

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) offered a mea culpa to fiscal conservatives today for the Republican-controlled Congress's spending policies, the latest move in a public relations campaign designed to shore up the Texan's political base as he battles an indictment over his fundraising practices.

DeLay addressed a group numbering approximately 100 at the Heritage Foundation's Alison Auditorium early this afternoon; the topic -- accountability. Read his speech here.

DeLay repeatedly apologized to the crowd for the spending habits of Congress, including the recent highway bill, which was loaded with lawmakers' pet projects and drew considerable negative backlash from strict fiscal conservatives.

After noting that House Republicans have voted to cut taxes every year since winning the majority in 1994, DeLay acknowledged: "Our record on spending has not been as consistent, unfortunately." Asked later about the highway bill, DeLay said he was "not here to defend the highway bill," adding: "Our responsibility, which we didn't do that well, is to monitor those earmarks."

DeLay used the appearance to attack Democrats for their alleged lack of willingness to cooperate with Republicans in making cuts to bring the budget back into line. "Washington Democrats believe that every single penny of the $2.5 trillion the federal government lays out is wisely spent on efficient programs vital to the national interests of the American people," said DeLay. "No wonder their new slogan is 'We can do better.' Anyone can do better than that!" (Cue cymbal crash)

In closing, DeLay advocated a return to "core principles of conservative governance." He said: "No more distractions, no more diversions." DeLay beat a hasty retreat at the speech's conclusion, not answering a shouted question on whether his indictment by a Texas grand jury was one of the distractions he was referencing in his speech.

Today's speech was another indication that although DeLay was forced to step down as Majority Leader after being indicted, he is sending plenty of signals that he remains a powerful GOP figure.

The Fix wonders what acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)  thinks of that strategy.

A sidenote: DeLay accepted free travel from "Fox News Sunday" worth nearly $14,000, according to a document filed with the Clerk of the House on Oct.,14.  The form shows that DeLay's travels on Oct. 1 and 2 from his home in Sugarland, Texas to Washington, D.C. and back cost $13,998.55 and was for "officially connected travel."  Political Moneyline, the best campaign finance site on the web, unearthed the document.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 3, 2005; 4:45 PM ET
Categories:  House  
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