Bob Novak on the

Bob Novak on the DeLay Rule .<$NoAd$>..

The closed-door meeting of House Republicans Wednesday that was supposed to quickly protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay from a political indictment turned into a contentious debate lasting several hours. Rep. Rob Portman of Ohio, the appointed chairman of the House Republican Leadership, came up with a compromise that won assent.

The original proposal would have simply repealed the 1993 Republican rule requiring the resignation from the House party leadership of any member who is criminally indicted. The Portman compromise sets up a review by the House Republican Steering Committee of each case.

The change in the rule was inspired by the prospect that Democratic District Atty. Ronnie Earle in Austin, Texas, may soon indict DeLay in connection with his successful congressional redistricting in Texas. At Wednesday’s conference, several Republican House members expressed fear that a straight repeal of the rule would send a bad political message.

I don’t know who’s on the House Republican Steering Committee in the next congress. But if I’m not mistaken, it’s automatically chaired by the Speaker of the House, Denny Hastert, and comprised of members chosen by the leadership. And since Hastert works for DeLay (not on paper, but …) and DeLay chooses who’s on that committee, I doubt he’s got too much to be worried about.