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Armey has harsh words for Democrats on the House Chaplain choice

February 8, 2000
Web posted at: 4:10 p.m. EST (2110 GMT)

Washington (CNN) -- The controversy surrounding the selection of a new chaplain for the House of Representatives continued Tuesday as House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas) accused his Democratic colleagues of "political demagoguery."

The House Republican leadership's decision to name a Presbyterian minister as the new chaplain sparked accusations from several Democrats that a Catholic priest was passed over for the job because of his faith.

Armey told reporters Tuesday that he is "offended they (Democrats) would have the gall" to suggest that GOP leaders demonstrated an anti-Catholic bias when they selected Rev. Charles Wright, instead of Father Tim O'Brien, who had emerged as the first choice in a convoluted recommendation process.

Armey characterized the Democrats' charges "political demagoguery" and "carpet bombing." Although a special House committee recommended that the GOP leadership select O'Brien, Armey denied that the final decision was based on the candidates's particular religious faith.

"Denomination did not enter my mind," Armey said.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) has not scheduled a vote on Dr. Wright's nomination. The present chaplain, Rev. James Ford, a Lutheran, is continuing in his post.

The Democratic caucus has also refused Republican requests to meet with Rev Wright.

When asked by reporters if the Republican leadership was considering withdrawing the nomination, Hastert replied: "At this point, he is the nominee".

Congressional sources told CNN Tuesday that the Republicans are prepared to continue through the rest of the year with Rev. Ford, and wait until next session to submit Rev. Wright's nomination.

Of course, such a scenario assumes the Republicans will retain control of the House in the 2000 elections.

Republicans have complained that House Democrats are using the issue to motivate Catholics voters, while denying that the selection of a Protestant had anything to do with the fact Christian evangelicals often vote Republican.

 
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Tuesday, February 8, 2000


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