Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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As of 2:30 PM this afternoon we've had TPM readers contacting quite a few Republican members of congress about how they voted on the DeLay Rule. And it seems fair to say that aside from members of congress from tomato-red districts, a very large percentage of Republican representatives find one way or another of not answering their constituents when they ask how their rep. voted.

Whether it's Pennsylvania's Jim Gerlach, whose office won't say how he voted, or Roscoe Bartlett in Maryland, who also won't say, most just find some way to dodge the question or insist the answer is private.

Apparently there's one Republican rep. from Florida who claims a vote never even took place. We'll follow up on that and report back if we hear more.

More to follow shortly.

The Manchester Union Leader is reporting that both New Hampshire reps., Charlie Bass and Jeb Bradley are part of the Shays Handful.

Bass seems to be making comments to the press while Bradley is trying to lay low. But both are in the Shays Handful.

[ed. note: If the 'handful' is starting to look rather large to you, yes, we've noticed the same thing. It has occurred to us as well that there may be a slight discrepancy between those who voted for the DeLay Rule and those who are willing to admit they voted for the DeLay Rule. But then, as we've seen, exit polls sometimes do not match up with the actual tally.]

Late Update: Pennsylvania's Phil English also seems to be a letter-writer.

More news on the DeLay Rule.

It turns out that all three Republican members of congress from Connecticut (Rob Simmons, Christopher Shays and Nancy Johnson) are members of the Shays Handful, according to this article in the Hartford Courant.

But neighboring New York seems like a different story. TPM readers have been told that Rep. Sherwoood Boehlert has a policy of only discussing his position on the DeLay Rule in letters to constituents. Rep. Sue Kelly and James Walsh are keeping mum. And Rep. John McHugh seems to be a letter writer as well.

Let us know if you've heard from your New York Republican rep. We're hoping at least one of them is in the Shays Handful.

Late Update: After several refusals to answer to TPM Readers, a staffer for Virginia's Tom Davis is now putting him in Shays Handful. We'll wait for more definitive word about Davis.

Well, we've been getting all sorts of reports from readers about how their representatives voted on the DeLay Rule. First, we should announce that we've found two new members of the Shays Handful. The first is Mark Kirk of Illinois. The second is a possible member. A staffer for New Hampshire's Charlie Bass told a TPM reader that he opposed the DeLay Rule. But, as yet, I have not seen his opposition noted in any published report.

What we're hearing a lot of are cases where the Rep. in question either says the vote was private or their staffers claim not to know how they voted. Interestingly enough, there seems to be a high correlation between these responses and whether the member is a moderate and/or in a swing district. We're also getting a slew of reports of members who will only respond to constituents in writing about whether they supported the DeLay Rule.

Staffers for Rep. Judy Biggert of Illinois have so far pulled off a trifecta, managing to give different readers each of the three versions of no answer noted above.

We'll bring you more shortly.

One final point: We already have our name for the folks who bucked DeLay and are willing to say so publicly. They're the Shays Handful. But what do we call the Reps. who are afraid to tell, or refuse to tell, their constituents how they voted? Send us your suggestions.

Late Update: So far, I think the best bet is to call them the Shamed Handful, but I'd like to do better.

One final thought on the DeLay Rule passed on Wednesday in the House GOP caucus.

The Republicans' argument for passing the DeLay Rule is that Travis County DA Ronnie Earle is on a partisan witch-hunt against DeLay and that all they're doing is taking steps to prevent Democrats from dictating the leadership of their caucus.

DeLay himself says that Earle is "trying to criminalize politics and using the criminal code to insert himself into politics." And to further this argument his lieutenants have enlisted members of the caucus to make various defamatory remarks about Earle. New York's Peter King calls him a "runaway prosecutor." (DeLay earlier called him a "''runaway district attorney''; so presumably King got it from him.) Henry Bonilla of Texas calls him a "partisan crackpot district attorney." There are many other examples.

So DeLay is getting members of the Republican caucus to accuse Earle of being an unethical district attorney and pursuing a prosecution to advance a political agenda.

Now, is there any evidence of that?

In Texas, the DAs are elected, not appointed. And Earle is a Democrat. Because his jurisdiction includes Austin, the state capital, his office runs the state's Public Integrity Unit, which gives him jurisidiction over this case. But that's the system in Texas. Earle's been in office since 1976. And his website lists various awards he's won that seem to show that he's held in high regard by fellow DAs. But of course, who knows what these awards mean?

The Times profiled Earle recently and this is the graf most revelant to our question ...

''The only people I antagonize more than Republicans are Democrats,'' Mr. Earle said later. He said the record showed he had prosecuted 12 Democratic officials and 4 Republican officials, although for much of his time in office, he acknowledged, Republicans were on the outs. ''We prosecute abuses of power,'' he said, ''and you have to have power to abuse it.''

So let's open it up. Does Earle have a history of more aggressively prosecuting Republicans than Democrats? Are there valid arguments that the indictments already handed down against the three DeLay aides are legally questionable? Or does Cong. DeLay just think he's above the law?

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) criticizes the DeLay Rule: "Republicans have reached a new low. It is absolutely mind-boggling that as their first order of business following the elections, House Republicans have lowered the ethical standards for their leaders."

Trent Franks (R-AZ) on why the old rule wasn't right: "In my sincere opinion, it [the possible indictment of DeLay] only provoked the timing. When you look at the rule, it is an outrageous rule."

Denny Hastert (R-IL): DeLay Rule "fair and equitable"; voting for DeLay Rule a "a good decision."

Henry Bonilla (R-TX): DeLay Rule "takes the power away from any partisan crackpot district attorney who may want to indict" House leadership.

Kevin Brady: (R-TX): DeLay Rule is "a recognition that the rules of politics have changed. The courts and judges and prosecutors are all now part of what used to be the voters' decision. We're in an ugly world."

Pravda: "The controversy surrounding DeLay does not seem to have dented his considerable power. He is credited with helping Republicans increase their majority in the House in this month's elections and many Republican lawmakers feel indebted to him for his fund-raising prowess."

Congressman Darrell Issa of California come onnnnnn dowwwwwwnnnnnnnn!

What'd you do wrong? Nuthin! I just picked you at random. Congressman Issa, did you support the "Delay Rule" in the GOP caucus today? You know, the one that allows members of the House leadership to keep their leadership posts after they've been indicted for felonies.

Congressman Frank LoBiondo, how about you?

Anne Northup?

Jeb Bradley of New Hampshire?

Shelley Moore Capito?

Ahhhh ... I could go on an on. And by all mean let's go on and on. There are so many members of the GOP caucus to choose from (often a matter of regret, but in this case suddenly a blessing). Here's a list of every member of the House of Representatives.

Do you work for a local newspaper or TV Station? Want an easy story? Call up the local Republican member of congress to see if they supported the DeLay Rule. Believe me, this one writes itself.

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) says a "handful" of members of the caucus opposed the rule. Let's be extremely generous and say that's 20 members. That still leaves 211 supporters. Who are they?

Not a journalist? Afraid you can't play? Fuggetaboutit ... You can play too.

Just pick a Republican member of Congress, call the number on their website and ask. Don't be rude or confrontational. Just a simple question: Did Congressperson such-and-such support the DeLay Rule in the GOP caucus meeting on Wednesday. After you get your answer, drop us a line and let us know what you hear. Did they vote for the DeLay Rule or are they members of the Shays Handful?

They refused to answer? We wanna know that too.

Late Update: Congressman Zach Wamp (R-TN) turns out to be a member of the Shays Handful.

Even Later Update: This AP article says that Chris Shays "estimated 30 to 50 members voted against" the DeLay Rule. All I can say is, that's quite a "handful." But then maybe Shays has big hands. Who knows? In any case, the game continues.

Later Than You Can Imagine Update: Ray LaHood (R-IL) also says he was a member of the Shays Handful. He explained why his colleagues voted for the DeLay Rule: "It was the result of the fact that he increased our numbers, he takes care of members when they need legislation passed, his fund raising and, in Texas, his drawing people a good district."

Just a few moments ago I asked whether the House GOP caucus had any rule in place that would force Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down post-conviction.

And that raises the following possible scenario.

After getting convicted, DeLay could manage to stay free on bail for some time pending appeal -- probably multiple appeals. And while his appeals are dragging out month after month, or even year after year, what's to stop him from getting his enforcers in Texas to get the elected DA, Ronnie Earle, redistricted out of office?

That way DeLay gets convicted. He gets the conviction overturned on appeal (if possible). And while that's happening, he gets Earle thrown out of office. The new DA who takes over is a DeLay crony. And the new guy decides not to refile the case.

Now, I know you're thinking that this is too much even for the DeLay machine. But consider this: There was so much funny-business that went on in DeLay's redistricting power-grab last year that Earle opened an investigation soon after the events took place. On May 23rd, 2003, for instance, he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that he had already opened an inquiry into another aspect of the case (specifically, a matter of some mysteriously 'destroyed' records.)

So the DeLay machine already knew trouble could be coming from Earle by late spring of last year. And, low and behold, a few months later, as Earle's investigations started to pick up steam, the guy who executed DeLay's redistricting power-grab, House Speaker Tom Craddick, began working on new legislation to redistrict the state's 300-odd elected DAs and elected prosecutors. As this article from last November in the Austin Chronicle makes clear, the widely-assumed real target of the move was none other than Ronnie Earle.

A far-fetched scenario? Maybe. But would you put it past the Bug Man?

Late Update: A few TPM readers note the point that redistricting Earle out of a job would be an awfully difficult proposition. Far easier would be to strip the Travis Co. District Attorney (Earle) of the state's Public Integrity Unit, which would accomplish DeLay's end just as well. (Again, see the article linked above.)

I'm eager to find out more about who in the GOP caucus was for and who was against the "DeLay rule" -- the new rule allowing Tom DeLay (R-TX) and future indictees to continue in their House leadership roles after being indicted.

Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut seems to be the only Republican who says he didn't support the move when it was put to a voice vote today. And he says he was one of only a "handful" of Republican House members who also spoke out against the change in today's closed door meeting.

Here's my question. And it's a genuine question since I don't know the answer. Does the Republican caucus currently have a rule which would force DeLay to relinquish his post after conviction if he remains free on appeal?

The earlier rule would have made such a rule superfluous since any leadership office had to be surrendered on indictment. But with that changed, is there such a rule? And if not, does the GOP caucus plan on imposing one?

And in the interest of completeness, is there any stage in the criminal justice process when a GOP caucus member in a leadership office has to resign his post? If the judge sentences DeLay to wearing one of those radio beacon collars around his ankle so that he doesn't leave the vicinity of the Capitol, could he continue as leader then too? Or would that be too much?

An extreme scenario, I grant you, but as long as we're plumbing the depths ...