No, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) didn’t put him on retainer. And Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) doesn’t have him on speed dial, either. Even with the tough health care vote rapidly approaching later this week.
But with House Democrats struggling to find the votes to pass the health care measure in the coming days, they certainly could use the brass-knuckle tactics of the man once known on Capitol Hill as “The Hammer.”
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) made a rare appearance at the Capitol late Wednesday afternoon. He chatted up Reps. Pete Sessions (R-TX), Henry Cuellar (D-TX), Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) in a hallway near the House chamber.
But unlike Major League Baseball teams that bring in “mercenaries” to bolster their roster during the heat of a pennant chase, DeLay says the Democrats haven’t sought his counsel as to what methods he would employ persuade reluctant lawmakers to vote for the health care legislation.
“They haven’t asked,” laughed DeLay. “I don’t know why.”
DeLay vehemently opposes the Democrats’ health care reform effort. But putting politics aside, the former leader indicated he’d handle the big vote in the same fashion of the current Democratic braintrust.
“I don’t know that I’d do anything different,” DeLay said. “They’re counting on exhaustion to carry the day. They aren’t going to vote until the very last minute. Members get worn down.”
DeLay was Majority Leader when Republicans held open a November, 2003 vote a record three hours to pass a prescription drug bill for seniors. The vote started at 3 am on a Saturday and closed just before 6 am. Republicans struggled to cajole their members to vote for the bill. But they finally coaxed enough GOP lawmakers to switch from no to yes to approve the legislation. And when the GOP got the votes, DeLay shut off the tally.
The vote remains the longest vote in House history. And it shattered the old record by an hour and a half.
Many lawmakers decried DeLay for his win-at-all-costs gambits to prevail on lawmakers. But DeLay contends that wasn’t his style.
“I was always accused of breaking arms and legs,” he said. “And the truth is, I never had to.”