Federal File

August 08, 2001 1 min read

Without DeLay?

An “awful” bill? Hardly the adjective you’d expect from a top Republican leader— and Texan—to describe education legislation that is a top priority for President Bush.

But House Majority Whip Tom DeLay could not resist confessing his distaste for the plan during a recent interview with radio talk-show host and provocateur Rush Limbaugh.

“Well, I have to admit it, I voted for that awful education bill,” Mr. DeLay said in the interview, published in the July issue of the Limbaugh Letter, a monthly newsletter published by the popular conservative broadcaster.

“I came here to eliminate the Department of Education,” the whip said, “so it was very hard for me to vote for something that expands the Department of Education.”

Mr. DeLay, the third-ranking Republican in the House, until now has refrained from publicly criticizing the education plan. But in the Limbaugh interview, he said that political considerations explain his “aye” vote in May on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization.

“But this is one of [the president’s] big agenda items,” he said. “I did not want to be the person—and I have people who follow me—to keep it from going on. I may vote against it when it comes back out of the conference committee ... I’m ashamed to say it was just blatant politics. I can’t even remember another time that I’ve actually voted against my principles.”

The House bill was approved in May with overwhelming support, 384-45, with 34 Republicans opposed. House and Senate lawmakers are now working to reconcile differences between their versions of the legislation.

Mr. DeLay also criticized the political approach to the education plan. “The way it worked in the Congress was, they started at the center and moved left,” he said.

Asked about Mr. DeLay’s broadsides, a spokesman for Rep. John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, the chairman of the House education committee, e-mailed back to say the chairman’s office had no comment.

—Erik W. Robelen

A version of this article appeared in the August 08, 2001 edition of Education Week