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After 11 terms, DeLay says goodbye

Published June 9, 2006

WASHINGTON - Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, bowing to legal and ethical troubles, said goodbye to the House on Thursday and took a shot at his liberal opponents. Some Democrats walked out during the farewell.

The 11-term Republican from Texas, said it is customary for departing lawmakers to "reminisce about the good old days of political harmony and across-the-aisle camaraderie."

"I can't do that," he said.

"For all its faults, it is partisanship - based on core principles - that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders," DeLay said.

A Democrat could be heard telling colleagues to walk out as DeLay criticized liberals who he said stand for "more government, more taxation, more control over people's lives and wallets." At least two dozen left.

DeLay's departure Friday comes as his majority party struggles with a series of scandals and low approval ratings for President Bush. Public opinion polls show that voters favor returning Democrats to power in Congress.

DeLay was a darling of conservatives. Although some in DeLay's party found his hardball tactics problematic, many acknowledge his success in moving the Republican agenda.

Democrats largely despised DeLay.

"A large part of his legacy will be a culture of corruption that he built here in the Congress of the United States," said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

In compliance with his own party's rule, DeLay stepped down as majority leader, the No. 2 job, last year after he was indicted in Texas on campaign money laundering charges. His ties to former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty in a federal bribery investigation, have come under scrutiny.

Two of DeLay's former associates, Michael Scanlon and Tony Rudy, have pleaded guilty to charges in the Abramoff case. DeLay has repeatedly denied wronging in both cases and did so again before the full House.

"I have scraped and clawed for every vote, every amendment, for every word of every bill that I believe in my heart would protect human freedom and defend human dignity," DeLay said. "I have done so at all times honorably and honestly, Mr. Speaker, as God is my witness and history is my judge."

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 06:23:53]

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