DeLay's Last Day

Today is the last day in elected office for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Yesterday, DeLay bade farewell to his colleagues on the House floor. And he did it in classic, Tom DeLay fashion: A speech laced with matter-of-fact and what some might consider harsh-partisan rhetoric. Chad Pergram has more from Capitol Hill.

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Location, location, location are the three most important factors in real estate. The same is true on Capitol Hill when gauging someone's political power. And when Tom DeLay was Majority Leader, he controlled a posh suite of offices inside the Capitol....not far from the Rotunda...and the House floor.

"This is the route that Tom DeLay would take when he was House Majority Leader to get to the House Chamber for a vote. He'd come out of his office on the first floor, and then come up this series of circular steps to get to the second floor of the Capitol where the House Chamber is located. It was a short walk, taking only a minute or two. In his days as a backbencher, DeLay was relegated to Quarters in the Cannon House Building across the street from the Capitol. That walk might take as long as ten minutes."

DeLay's real estate downgrade...is a metaphor for his fall from the trappings of leadership. Stripped of his clout, Tom DeLay and his family...departed room 242 of the Cannon building Thursday afternoon...to walk across Independence Avenue...to the Capitol, to deliver his final speech...on the House floor.

"I'm excited, I'm looking forward to the future. This is a new chapter in my life and I'm looking forward to fighting in a new arena. Any regrets as you look back on your career...? None at all....and no doubts."

If DeLay had any regrets...or doubts...he may have wished he had chosen to a different route...to reach the House chamber...opting instead for the snarl of underground tunnels...linking the House office buildings with the Capitol. A handful of hecklers spotted DeLay strolling across the street...and chided the fallen leader.

"lost his hammer"

But inside the Capitol complex, DeLay focused on the task ahead.

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to the speech. It's probably one of my most important speeches. It's got a message that I want the American public to hear."

DeLay delivered a biting, partisan oratory...that has become his calling card.

"I find that it's customary in speeches to reminisce about the good old days of political harmony and across the aisle camaraderie....and to lament the bitter divisive partisan rancor. Well, I can't do that."

But some DeLay loyalists...conceded DeLay's white-hot rhetoric was outdated. The Congressman's controversial redistricting plan...helped republican Texas Representative Michael McCaul win election two years ago.

"We need more Statesmen who can work on both sides of the aisle and I think that's very important. Was he a Statesman? Uhhh, hah!.......He was a fighter.

And that's one thing that never changed about DeLay. In the closing lines of his speech...the Congressman said...if he had the chance to do it all over again...he would change only one thing. He would quote..."fight even harder."

For Houston Public Radio, I'm Chad Pergram on Capitol Hill.