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Delay, Leaving Congress, Has 'No Fear' of Any Investigations

I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

This week, Tom DeLay announced he will resign from Congress. The former House majority leader plans to leave by the middle of June.

Mister DeLay entered the House of Representatives in nineteen eighty-five. He is in his eleventh term representing an area of Texas. He was seeking re-election this November. But he was in a close race and it appeared he could lose his seat to a Democrat. That could hurt Republican chances to keep a majority in the House.

Mister DeLay resigned in September as majority leader, the second most powerful job in the House after speaker. He did so after he was charged in Texas with violating state laws on campaign finance. He denies the charges.

Now, former aides to Mister DeLay are cooperating in a federal investigation tied to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is also cooperating. Lobbyists represent special interests to public officials. Until recently Jack Abramoff was a powerful lobbyist in Washington.

He has pleaded guilty to criminal charges in connection with efforts to influence members of Congress and their aides. Two former aides to Mister DeLay have also pleaded guilty. Now the Justice Department wants to know if Tom DeLay and others in Congress accepted gifts like travel in exchange for votes.

Lawmakers are now debating how to reform the rules for lobbying in Congress.

Mister DeLay says he has done nothing wrong. He says he is the target of a personal campaign by "liberal Democrats." He says: "I have no fear whatsoever about any investigation into me or my personal or professional activities."

On March twenty-ninth a judge in Miami, Florida, sentenced Jack Abramoff to almost six years in prison in an unrelated case. It involved the illegal financing of casino ships.

Those who know Tom DeLay say his friends are being pressured into making statements against him. For years he has been one of the most powerful members of Congress. He helped the Republican Party gain its majority in the House in nineteen ninety-four. Republicans now control the Senate as well. President Bush is also a Republican.

Democrats would need to gain fifteen seats to take control of the House. They would need to gain six for a majority in the Senate. There are one hundred seats in the Senate and four hundred thirty-five in the House.

Democratic leaders point to studies showing that sixty-eight percent of Americans are not satisfied with the direction of the country. Democrats think this will mean good news for their party this November.

But Republicans say the Democrats will fail. They say the party does not have good ideas for the future.

As for his own future, Tom DeLay says he plans to live in Virginia and work privately to support conservative positions.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I'm Steve Ember.