30 GOP members ramp up DeLay defense

From the Hill:

Reps. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) have been meeting with 30 House Republicans over the past few weeks to coordinate a more aggressive strategy to defend Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to a Republican source familiar with the meetings.

Starting last night, Republican lawmakers had planned to speak on the House floor during special orders to defend their embattled majority leader. The lawmakers will say that Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans are of oversights in their record keeping and of taking trips paid for by private groups.

“The Republican Conference has not yet awakened to the fact that this is a full-frontal attack against Republicans, leadership and against Mr. DeLay,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), one of the most committed lawmakers. “What we have is a lopsided effort by the Democrats to burn down the House.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), also involved in the group, said, “We’re frustrated by Democratic hypocrisy,” adding that the group would fight back in floor speeches, press releases and letters to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to highlight Democrat’s travel violations.

“We can’t simply play defense,” he continued.

Another GOP lawmaker said, “We’re a group of people who think we’ve been involved in a knife fight and it’s time we pick up the knife.”

Asked for names of Democrats who were vulnerable to ethics charges, Republicans cited members of the Democratic leadership and Congressional Black Caucus. But Sessions said the mission was not to level ethics charges against Democrats.