WASHINGTON – House Republicans expressed strong support for Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search) on Wednesday, dismissing persistent Democratic criticism of the Texan as evidence of partisan politics.
"I don't see any wavering of the support for the leader. I think a lot of members think he's taking arrows for all of us," said Rep. Roy Blunt, third-ranking among GOP leaders.
Blunt and others spoke out on DeLay's behalf as Democrats leveled a new charge -- that the ethical controversy surrounding him was distracting from congressional efforts to tackle pressing problems.
"When politicians, the Republican majority, decides it is above the law, the American people are now seeing that they have a price to pay -- at the pump, for their pharmaceuticals, and in the absence of initiatives that would help grow our economy, and to feed our children, provide for the health of our people, protect our environment, and, indeed, even provide for the common defense," said Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (search) of California.
DeLay, R-Texas, was admonished three times last year by the House ethics committee, and fresh questions have been raised in recent weeks about his overseas travel over several years. In addition, three associates are under indictment on state charges in Texas in connection with an effort to redraw the state's congressional districts.
Additionally, lobbyist Jack Abramoff (search), long close to DeLay, is under investigation by the Justice Department and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee for with work he did for Indian tribes.
DeLay has denied any wrongdoing, and has not been charged with violating any law.
Pelosi said Congress had been distracted at the same moment Blunt and other GOP leaders held a news conference to trumpet their accomplishments so far this year and announce plans to pass several other bills by the end of next month.
They claimed credit for legislation to provide funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a bill to provide relief to victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami and a measure to limit the scope of class action lawsuits.
Among the priorities for the next eight weeks, they said, are a bill for permanent repeal of the estate tax as well as a measure making it harder for consumers to shed debts in bankruptcy court. Energy and welfare legislation are also on the list.