DeLay calls for humility, responsibility
Amid ethics dispute, majority leader speaks at prayer event
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay spoke about the virtue of humility Thursday, telling a gathering to imagine what could be accomplished "if we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it."
DeLay, who has been at the center of ethics allegations, made the comments to about 1,000 people who had gathered for a National Day of Prayer event on Capitol Hill. The audience included many members of Congress.
"Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door," he said. "If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees.
"For in God, all things are possible, ladies and gentlemen. And even greatness from lowly sinners like you and me -- especially me."
At the end of his speech, DeLay received a standing ovation, which he later called "very heartwarming." He told reporters that he chose the topic of humility because "humility is something I work on every single day."
Facing allegations in recent weeks that he took overseas trips improperly funded by lobbyists, the Texas Republican has denied wrongdoing. The House ethics committee admonished the majority leader three times in 2004 on separate issues.
On Wednesday, two Republican members of the House ethics panel recused themselves from any investigation of DeLay, saying their presence could pose a conflict of interest because they both contributed to DeLay's legal defense fund. (Full story)
Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas and Tom Cole of Oklahoma said they met with committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington about the matter, and everyone agreed that their recusals would be in the "best interests" of the committee.
Last week, the House reversed GOP-written rules that had caused Democrats to shut down the panel. (Full story)
The ethics committee met belatedly for the first time this year Wednesday, the same day a poll showed that 82 percent of Americans believe lobbyist-funded trips are a serious ethical matter.
The CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found the "unfavorable" rating for DeLay rose 7 points from a month earlier. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
DeLay has begun making more appearances in the past two days after keeping a lower profile in recent weeks.
DeLay and House Speaker Dennis Hastert said that Wednesday they hope the committee -- which recently got a 40 percent budget increase -- will hire additional staff so privately funded trips can be reviewed before lawmakers accept them.
In an off-camera session with reporters, DeLay was asked if his staff's internal review of all his past privately funded travel has revealed any problems.
"No, they have not uncovered any problems," he said. "Unlike the way it's being reported, we did everything by the book."
Regardless, DeLay said, he would give his results to the ethics committee, not the public.
"You've seen all the material we're putting together. I mean, we've answered just about every question that's ever been asked of us," he said.
Nevertheless, the dispute has raised issues about congressional travel that "need to be looked into," DeLay acknowledged.