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DeLay Abandons Bid to Hold Majority Leader Post

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Embattled U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on Saturday abandoned his bid to remain as House majority leader, clearing the way for end-of-the-month leadership elections among Republicans eager to shed the taint of scandal.

In a letter to rank-and-file Republicans, DeLay said, "I have always acted in an ethical manner."

At the same time, "I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention," the Texas Republican from Sugar Land wrote.

DeLay is battling campaign finance charges in Texas and was forced to step aside temporarily as majority leader last fall after he was charged in his home state. He has been trying to clear his name and, until Saturday, resume his leadership role.

In a separate letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, DeLay said he intends to seek re-election to his House seat in November "while I work to clear my name of the baseless charges leveled against me."

DeLay's about-face came amid growing pressure from fellow Republicans who were concerned about their own political futures in the wake of this past week's guilty pleas by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

DeLay's defiant, take-no-prisoners style had won him the admiration and respect of fellow Republicans, but his mounting problems cast a shadow over the entire House.

Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the GOP whip who temporarily has filled in for DeLay, was expected to run for majority leader. Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, a former member of the leadership, is also likely to seek the job.

Elections are likely the week of Jan. 30, when lawmakers return to the Capitol.

DeLay acted hours after a small vanguard of Republicans circulated a petition calling for leadership elections and citing DeLay's legal problems as well as his long ties to Abramoff.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.