Skip to comments.Shays would rather fight than switch
Posted on 05/19/2005 4:02:04 PM PDT by Jean S
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who has been booed by his Republican colleagues behind closed doors and who acknowledges tension with the rest of the House GOP, says that Democrats often hint he should switch parties but that he would never consider doing so.
There are a lot of people who hint at it, but I've never had a serious discussion, Shays said in an interview with Th Hill.
I believe in the market, he said. I can't vote labor right or wrong. Shays added that you can't be in that party and vote against organized labor.
Shays, in his 10th term, barely won reelection last year, taking 52 percent of the vote in the Fairfield County-based 4th Congressional District, which Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) narrowly won in last year's presidential election.
Nevertheless, GOP leaders have not included Shays in their Retain Our Majority Program, which raises money for the most vulnerable House Republican incumbents, even though other members of the program won with larger margins last year.
At the start of the last Congress, Shays was denied the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee, even though he was the most senior eligible member of the panel. His colleagues viewed the decision as payback for Shays's forcing a vote on a campaign-finance reform bill in the 107th Congress that Republican leaders opposed.
Despite the snubs, however, Shays said he is staying put in the Republican ranks.
In addition to being an advocate of free markets, Shays said another reason he would never consider switching parties is that he is a self-described fiscal conservative and believes the GOP is the party of fiscal conservatism, though you wouldn't know it from the bills we've passed, he lamented.
Shays's dissatisfaction with the party's recent budgetary track record may explain his March 17 vote against the Republican congressional budget resolution. He and 11 other Republicans joined 201 Democrats in voting against the measure. The resolution, a crucial piece of the GOP agenda, passed by four votes. On April 28, Shays voted against the budget conference report, which passed by three votes.
Shays has opposed the vast majority of his party and its leadership on other occasions. At the beginning of the year, Shays was the only Republican to vote with 194 Democrats to approve a motion by Rep. Louise Slaughter (N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, to commit the GOP rules package for the 109th Congress to an amendment process.
Shays was also one of 22 Republicans to vote against the House GOP energy bill in April, after he voted for several Democratic amendments to the bill, including a provision empowering the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that only five other Republicans supported.
But Shays's strongest statement against his leadership came at a town hall meeting in Greenwich, Conn., in April, when he said that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) should step down from his post as House majority leader.
Shays called DeLay an absolute embarrassment to me and the Republican Party at a time when the media were writing extensively about ethical controversies surrounding DeLay because of his past connection to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Shays's criticism of DeLay was likely prompted by last year's election, in which Democrats chipped away at his support by portraying him as a rubber stamp of DeLay's agenda. But it angered his Republican colleagues, many of whom strongly support DeLay.
There are colleagues who are very angry with what I did, Shays said shortly after his comments were publicized. But he added that there are colleagues who are glad I did it, though he acknowledged that they are smaller in number.
Shays said his stances on DeLay and the controversy over the House ethics process have created tension with his fellow Republicans. Shays was the first Republican to co-sponsor a bill sponsored by Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the ethics committee, that would have repealed or amended changes to ethics rules that House Republicans adopted unilaterally at the beginning of the year.
There's a tension knowing that my party is over there and I'm over here, Shays said, gesturing with his hands.
He also spoke up at a closed-door meeting of the Republican conference late last year when his colleagues considered modifying a longstanding conference rule requiring that members of the leadership step down while they are under indictment.
The modification was widely interpreted as an effort to shield DeLay should he be indicted by Ronnie Earle, the district attorney of Travis County, Texas, who is investigating an alleged money-laundering scheme.
Cautioning his colleagues against changing the rule, Shays reminded them that DeLay had been found guilty by the ethics committee three times in the past year for various transgressions, a statement that elicited a chorus of boos from his fellow Republicans.
Shays now acknowledges that he made a mistake by saying DeLay had been found guilty and that he should have used more precise terminology. In fact, the committee admonished DeLay three times in the past year but, as DeLay's supporters are quick to point out, did not conclude that he violated any ethics rules.
Shays said that after he opposed the change in conference, about 20 members approached him in private to say that they supported his position, leaving Shays to wonder why they didn't speak up when the spotlight was on him.
One Republican member has even attempted to console Shays by telling him that he will look like a prophet should DeLay ever be forced to step down.
And Shays said that he could be much more troublesome for the leadership, noting that he has turned down invitations from every major television talk show to discuss DeLay's ethics.
Shays said, I try to be helpful [to the leadership], and I'm willing to work with them whenever I can, but he added that he also has to represent his district.
His reasons for not switching are most interesting.
It is now apparent to everyone that you have to be pretty much a socialist in order to be a Democrat. That means that anyone with any degree of common sense will have to be a Republican.
This may leave us with a lot of RINOs, but it also provides a pretty strong majority.
A RINO in Full
Rep Chris Shays (left) and Rep Marty Meehan (right)
Please Freepmail me if you want on or off my infrequent Connecticut ping list.
I agree with that. We have a lot of different political thought, but only two major parties. The Dems have gone very far left.
The political action will be in the GOP primaries for the next several election cycles. I wouldn't be surprised if the people you call "RINO"s win the power.
I forgot the *barf alert*!
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.