It's Blunt, Not Dreier

Contrary to reports in the Associated Press, Fox News, and other news sources, House Republicans did not name California Rep. and Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier as the temporary replacement to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R.-Tex.). Less than four hours after DeLay was indicted on campaign corruption charges by a grand jury in Austin (Tx.), House Republicans held a closed-door meeting and, following the recommendation of Speaker Dennis Hastert (Ill.), chose Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) to hold the position of majority leader for as long as DeLay is under a legal cloud.

In keeping with the established chain of command in the House Republican hierarchy, Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) will assume much of Blunt’s Whip duties. Hastert, Blunt, and DeLay met with reporters following the meeting, as did Dreier, who, the speaker announced, "will help move the agenda through the House floor." However, the Californian will have no official title in the leadership hierarchy.

In accepting the position of acting majority leader, Blunt told reporters that the indictment of DeLay was "terribly unfair," emphasized that he’ll serve as temporary leader, and predicted that his colleague from Texas "will return" to the position he relinquished earlier that day.

Amid earlier reports that Dreier would be name to fill in for DeLay, more than forty leaders of conservative organizations sent Hastert’s office a letter voicing their objections to the move and calling on the speaker and his colleagues to follow the established chain of command in their Conference and name Blunt instead. Along with their objections to jumping the line-up of the House leadership, the conservatives reportedly balked at Dreier because of his opposition to tougher immigration laws and support of hate crimes legislation.

But several Republican lawmakers I spoke to denied there was anything serious about the rumored Dreier promotion, that the speaker and his colleagues always intended to follow established procedures and elevate Blunt. AsRep. Sherwood Boehlert (R.-NY) put it, "We were better prepared for disaster than FEMA."