Less than a month into his new job, Majority Leader Tom DeLay (Texas) is beginning to put his stamp on the House Republicans’ No. 2 leadership post.
DeLay plans to begin each week by delivering a morning speech on the House floor in an attempt to set the tone on a newsworthy issue or provide the proscribed leadership perspective before a major vote.
Known for his hard-charging style, the Texas Republican gave his first “speech of the week” on Tuesday morning, boldly defending the White House’s approach to possible war with Iraq.
“It’s an impossible task to discover weapons of mass destruction within a ruthlessly wicked and oppressive dictatorship that refuses to cooperate,” DeLay said. “Iraq is not destroying its weapons and it’s a known fact that [Iraqi leader] Saddam [Hussein] developed, deployed and destroyed thousands of lives with weapons of mass terror.
“It’s not a question of whether or not he has terror weapons,” he continued. “The real question is where and when will Saddam choose to use the thousands of terror weapons he still has.”
Despite DeLay’s aggressive style, which earned him the nickname “The Hammer” in his previous job as Majority Whip, spokesman Stuart Roy insisted the speeches are not an attempt to intimidate recalcitrant GOP Members into voting the party line.
“I would say he is leading by example,” Roy said. “We need to empower Republicans to sell the Republican message. In order for us to do that, you have to be part of that team. You have to go out there and have press conferences and go out there and sell the message.”
Roy said the weekly briefings are just a part of an overall communications strategy his boss plans to develop in his new role. Roy said DeLay will also hold a pen-and-pad briefing “regularly,” although he and Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce (Ohio), who is the designated House GOP messenger, are still hashing out the details of how often DeLay will host it.
“There will be a weekly Republican pen and pad no matter what,” Roy said.
DeLay also wants to retool the way committee chairmen and their members deliver their message to the public.
“DeLay wants to better integrate the committee communications into our overall communications strategy,” Roy explained. “We want them to carry the message from the cradle to the grave, from the time the bills are marked up to the time the bill is signed by the president.”
In the past, committee members often would communicate to reporters as the bill made its way through the panel, but then hand off the message to the GOP leaders when the legislation passes. Instead, DeLay wants to do a better job highlighting committee members with specific expertise throughout the process, Roy said.
DeLay, who has already begun discussions with committee chairmen about the new approach, scheduled a second meeting Tuesday; Pryce also attended the session.