Few congressional leaders are more powerful, more conservative, or more controversial than incoming House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Yet few speak to the media less. WORLD's Marvin Olasky, Nickolas Eicher, and I sat down for an exclusive interview with Rep. DeLay in his Capitol office on the day he was elected majority leader. Excerpts:
On whether he'll be a high-visibility political figure:
First of all, I'm not very good on television. So no. Obviously, in the role I am [now] playing I will be more exposed than I normally am. We've got some incredible talent in this [party] that is underused. They ought to be out there on television, interviews, that kind of thing.... I'll be the leader, not the show-horse.
On feeling the pressure to deliver, now that the GOP controls the House, the Senate, and the presidency:
I hope people don't get their expectations too high, but we've got some pretty meaningful legislation that got left on Tom Daschle's desk, that all we have to do now is pick it up and pass it. There are about 70 [bills] altogether.... I think there are about 12 pro-life bills. A ban on human cloning. There's pension reform. Welfare reform.
On the leadership's top priorities:
Welfare reform is really important to me because welfare reform really showed the American people the differences in philosophies and worldview of the Democrats and Republicans. The best part about it is we were accused by national media and others that we were going to starve children and there would be people in the streets and all those kinds of horrendous stories that they told us would happen and just the opposite has happened.... We've taken millions off the welfare rolls. We have got to reauthorize that and improve upon it.... On the economic front, the Republican House has passed tax cuts every year we have been in the majority, and we need to continue that. But more important than that, we need a very serious reforming of our tax code.
On the Republicans' economic agenda:
We are encouraging the president to be bold, and now is the time to be bold about an economic growth package. Not overreach. Don't be afraid of the class warfare that the Democrats are going to come at you with. I think the president has the honeymoon that he didn't get out of 2001, and he's [got] about five to six months to do some pretty important things, and one of the most important things is the economic growth package.... There isn't a tax cut that I hate, so there's plenty out there to pick from, from investor relief to relief for seniors. Capital gains: We need to zero out capital gains.
On the GOP's biggest mistake:
If we failed at anything over the last eight years, it's at keeping the spending under control because that's one thing the president has massive leverage on. When you have a president like Bill Clinton, you had to constantly negotiate with him, and you are negotiating with trying to hold down spending while he is trying to negotiate to increase spending.... This president has already exhibited that he can [hold the line on spending].
On faith and public policy:
I think about everything as it comes through my faith in Christ. I am what I believe, and it shapes my worldview. So any decision I make is based upon my faith, my willingness to walk in the will of God. For a politician, probably the hardest thing in the world is to turn it all over to Him. But I've done that now going on 18 years, and it has served me very well. People ask me, "How can you stand the stress?" and things like that. It's easy. Because I'm not in charge.... I feel every issue is a moral issue. Every vote that I take is a moral vote, whether it's taking money from people and giving it to somebody else, or fighting the war on terrorism.