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Representative remains loyal to Tom DeLay in the Republican majority leader's hour of need.
House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom DeLay makes a brief statement Wednesday to the news media in Washington after announcing that he was stepping down from his leadership position. Delay was indicted on campaign finance charges in his home state of Texas.
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By MICHAEL ZITZ
Seventh District Rep. Eric Cantor insists that portrayals of the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives as in disarray in the wake of Tom DeLay's legal problems are false.
A Texas grand jury indicted DeLay, the majority leader, this week on charges of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds during 2002 state races there.
Cantor--a Richmond-area Republican whose district includes the counties of Orange, Culpeper, Caroline and part of Spotsylvania--believes that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of DeLay's political demise are an exaggeration.
And, he insisted yesterday, he won't be involved in a game of musical chairs to try to climb the House leadership ladder at DeLay's expense.
"From all that I know, this is a prosecutor on a political witch hunt," said Cantor, who was a lawyer before his election to Congress.
Republican Conference rules required DeLay to step aside while under indictment, and Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) was elected unanimously by his Republican colleagues Wednesday to serve as temporary House majority leader.
Blunt continues to serve as majority whip and Cantor as chief deputy whip.
As far as he knows, Cantor said, "There's no evidence to substantiate this indictment. I suspect that as soon as he goes to court, he will be exonerated."
Some are saying that even if he is found innocent, acquittal might come too late for DeLay to return to his post as majority leader.
But Cantor remained staunchly loyal. "At the end of the day, this is temporary," he said.
The Washington Post reported yesterday that Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.) plans to run for majority whip and will challenge Cantor for the position, if necessary. Reps. Mike Pence of Indiana, John A. Boehner of Ohio and Mike Rogers of Michigan also have been mentioned as candidates.
"This is not the time for that," Cantor said. "I'm dedicating myself, as always, to representing the district and supporting our leadership. I will continue to assist the majority whip as I always have."
Mark Rozell, head of the master of public policy program at George Mason University in Fairfax County, said the Republican right is still behind DeLay.