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Transcript: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on 'Fox News Sunday'

The following is a transcribed excerpt from "Fox News Sunday," Aug. 17, 2003

And now for a Republican perspective, we turn to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He joins us from Houston for his first Sunday interview as House majority leader.

Leader DeLay, you have now heard what John Dingell has said. Let's try to play the angles here. Do you think we're going to get the kind of energy bill that can put people's fears at rest for a while?

DELAY: Well, John Dingell is a good friend of mine, but you saw why we're having a problem. He doesn't want a long-term energy package.

You know, we passed a bill, the Republican House passed a bill two years ago that would have taken care of many of these problems. Tom Daschle, the majority leader in the Senate at that time, made sure that we couldn't get a bill to the president.

We passed a bill in June — and, by the way, the bill last year, the Democrats in the House had an amendment to strike the incentives that you talked about, Tony, that would have allowed people to build the kind of system that we need right now.

And the bill we passed in the House last June, Mr. Dingell himself offered an amendment to strike all the electricity provisions out of the bill. He offered another amendment that would have made it difficult to relicense hydropower plants, the most efficient, cleanest producers of electricity.

We need a comprehensive energy package. The house has passed one now going on three years. The Democrats in the Senate, the BANANA environmentalists. BANANA — NIMBY is no longer the term, Tony, anymore. It's BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything environmentalists...

SNOW: OK. Well...

DELAY: ... and utility companies that want to keep their people from competition in areas like the Northeast.

SNOW: OK. We need to break this into digestible portions for our audience, so let's try to talk about some of the key problems.

It is widely suspected the transmission lines were a problem here. One of the problems you've just mentioned — BANANA, NIMBY, whatever it may be — is that in a lot of localities, people don't want people building high-voltage transmission lines over their heads or under their yards. And as a result, nobody's building enough transmission lines. Our demand is growing twice as fast as we're building new wires.

Is it time for the federal government or the administration to get the right of eminent domain, the ability to condemn land, so that those wires get built, even if there is local opposition to them?

DELAY: That was in the bill two years ago, and it's in the House bill right now as we are talking. And, hopefully, we can get the Democrats to — particularly the Democrats in the Senate — to help us pass a bill that would eliminate this problem.

One, we have utility companies that don't want competition. We have regions of the country that have this BANANA problem. And we need to give — create an interstate system. I mean, we've created an interstate highway system. Surely, we could create an interstate transmission system so that we could pass electricity to those areas that need it.

SNOW: So...

DELAY: We've had a demand now of over 30 percent — a 30 percent increase in the demand for electricity, yet we've only improved our technology and transmission by 10 percent over the last 10 years.

DELAY: This president knows that we need something. We tried to do it, but the Democrats in the House and the Senate have stopped us so far from doing anything that would have solved the problem.

SNOW: So far the president's characterized this as a wakeup call, but he has not put the full force, the weight, the authority of his office behind a specific proposal.

What do you think he needs to insist upon so that the folks who are watching this show can say, "All right, they're going to fix the problem"?

DELAY: This president, along with the Republicans in the House, have been trying to wake people up for many years. I've had an electricity bill introduced almost every year that I've been in Congress, my own bill. We've been trying to tell the American people that this was going to happen.

The president, two weeks after he was sworn in, created an electricity group, or an energy group to come together and put together the energy bill that we passed two years ago. You know, if that had been — if that was law two years ago, we might not have had happened what happened last week.

SNOW: You're talking about a lot of bills. I need specifics here. I need things that the president has to insist upon, changes that are going to make a difference. What are they?

DELAY: Well, the bill that passed the House is what we need. We need new capacity. We need to be able to allow people to build plants to create electricity. We need the energy to burn in those plants, whether it be coal, natural gas, nuclear power, more hydropower. We need transmission lines that can be connected nationwide, not just in the regions, so that they can be protected.

And the American people need to understand that there are people out there that have fought us every step of the way to keep us from doing it: utility companies that don't want competition, Democrats in the House and Senate, and these BANANA environmental extremists that's don't want anything anywhere.

SNOW: All right, so, final question on this now, then I want move on to other topics.

There is a proposal out, I mentioned it to John Dingell, to create these regional transmission organizations that would be responsible for coordinating transmission. The utilities you just mentioned are opposed to it. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants this to happen, but the administration has agreed to put it off for three years.

Would you like to see this change enacted right away?

DELAY: No, the House hasn't agreed to put it off for three years. We're insisting on creating at least these regional transmission authorities. Actually, we ought to have a national transmission authority so that companies can sell electricity wherever the need is.

It just shows you the kind of problem we're having with utility companies that don't want competition.

SNOW: But the president is a guy who's got considerable standing. Is it not important for him to stand up, rather than to say, "Well, we don't have the votes, we're going to put it off for three years"?

DELAY: I can show him where we'll have the votes, and I'm sure he'll support it.

SNOW: All right, let's switch to Iraq. You recently returned from a trip to the region. There's been a little more violence today. Apparently, there's been an attack on a prison, where six prisoners were killed.

My question for you is, should the United States and its Army and its forces get out of the peacekeeping business and stick strictly — that is, the policing business — and stick to more military operations?

DELAY: I think the United States ought to be doing what we're doing, and that's fighting the war against terrorism, whether we find it in the Middle East or in Southeast Asia or in Israel. We ought to go after these terrorists, as we have been doing, and eliminate them and the states that support them. And we're doing a very good job at that, and we ought to continue it.

SNOW: You support the administration's position that the United Nations simply doesn't have a role in this, at least the peacekeeping within Iraq at the present time?

DELAY: Well, Tony, I haven't seen where the United Nations has the capacity to carry out anything as massive as the war on terrorism that's actually worldwide.

You saw what we went through with the United Nations in trying to deal with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. We should have gone into Iraq over a year ago, yet it took more than almost a year in order to do what was necessary to be done, and it was because of the United Nations.

SNOW: One of the linchpins in this terror network is Iran. Is it your belief that Iran is trying to whip up fervor among Shia Muslims within Iraq to try to destabilize the situation there?

DELAY: Well, Tony, while I was in Baghdad, it was pointed out to me that terrorists are coming out of Iran, they're coming out of Syria. They're creating the problems that we're having now. They're putting our people in danger and, indeed, killing some of our greatest and best soldiers.

DELAY: We've got to continue the pressure on Syria and Iran. We need to turn up the heat on both those countries to join us — either join us against these terrorists or suffer the consequences.

We have to fight this on every front that we can find to get these terrorists.

SNOW: Suffer the consequences — military consequences?

DELAY: Whatever it takes to find these terrorists and get rid of them.

SNOW: All right. Let's switch to another topic. Texas — there is an imbroglio about redistricting. Republicans want to change the map because their Republican majority is substantial in your home state.

But there's a question. These same Republicans, a couple of years ago, agreed to a redistricting, or at least, in courts, got involved. Why should Republicans get another bite at the apple?

DELAY: Well, we haven't had the first bite. We're supposed to, by Constitution, apportion or redistrict every 10 years. The state legislature in Texas couldn't do it in the last legislature, and three judges did it and they did a very poor job, as evidenced that the fact that we have a minority of Republicans in our congressional delegation.

What — you know, we in Texas, Tony, have prided ourselves on honor, duty and responsibility. Unfortunately, the Democrats in the state legislature don't understand honor because they're violating their oath of office to support the United States Constitution. They don't understand their duty, which the Constitution calls for in redistricting. And they don't want to accept responsibility for it, so they ran.

We're insisting that the Constitution be upheld, and we feel very confident that if the state legislature does its duty and redistricts, then we will end up with a majority of Republicans in the congressional delegation.

SNOW: Final question: Same-sex marriage, a lot of people are talking about it. We took a poll on the the question regarding whether people support a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between men and women only. Fifty-eight percent favor; 34 percent oppose.

What do you say? Is it time to amend the Constitution to define marriage from the standpoint of the United States Constitution?

DELAY: I think, Tony, we have to do everything that we can to support our society, upholding the basis of our society, the foundation of our society, and that's the family, and that is one man married to one woman — however we do it.

I think that we can do it statutorily. We can do it in many different ways. But if we just can't do it any other way, then yes, we need a constitutional amendment supporting the family in this country.

SNOW: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, thanks for joining us.

DELAY: Thank you, Tony.