Less than 2 weeks ago, Tom DeLay said there was no more room for cuts in the budget. This brought howls from the right - particularly on talk radio. Today, faced with a partisan investigation that led to an incredibly weak grand jury indictment, DeLay may be wishing he had held his tongue on the inability to make further budget cuts. He'll need the conservative base to rally to him. Telling the base there's no more room for cuts may keep some mum.
Having lived through a little turmoil in the House (Gingrich/Livingston1998), I would say DeLay's decision to step down pending the outcome of the investigation has the scent of political death about it. DeLay, more than most, deserves a vigorous defense from the right. But that's just not the way the Republican party works -- just ask Trent Lott. Internal power struggles will take some toll on DeLay's ability to maintain enough loyalty in the caucus for a return to the Leader's post when he beats the rap.
But more damaging will be the realization by House Republicans that Tom DeLay, though a fantastic leader, is not irreplaceable. In fact, they may well decide that the distraction of his return to power during an election cycle is not worth it.
Politics, being the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" game, favors the guy in power. Right now, that guy is one David Dreier. Roy Blunt is hovering, as is John Boehner. Long, drawn-out public corruption investigations -- even baseless ones such as this -- don't favor the target. Stay tuned.