WASHINGTON - Rep. John Shadegg said he and other reform-minded House Republicans will continue to press for changes to strip special interests of their influence after he lost his bid to become majority leader Thursday.
Rep. John Boehner of Ohio was elected to the post vacated by Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who faces a criminal indictment and has close ties with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“I am concerned that even our new leadership team won't recognize that America has shifted,” Shadegg said after finishing last in the three-man race. “For a powerful member to sneak language into a bill benefiting him or his cronies is simply unacceptable to the American people. We need a zero-tolerance standard for not only corruption, but for the appearance of impropriety.”
The Arizona Republican gave up his position as GOP policy chairman, the fifth-ranking position among House Republicans, when he entered the race for majority leader. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, who finished second Thursday, had been acting majority leader since DeLay was forced to temporarily give up the job last year following his indictment on state campaign finance charges in Texas.
A rebellion by House members, led by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., forced DeLay to give up any claim to the job last month. That sparked the three-way fight in which Blunt, who was closely tied to DeLay and Washington lobbying firms, seemed to be the front-runner.
Shadegg said he believes his entry into the race affected the voting and allowed Boehner to unseat Blunt. In the end, Boehner got 122 votes from House Republicans; Blunt got 109 and Shadegg got 40.
Shadegg is part of the wave of Republicans elected to the House in 1994 on a promise to curb spending, reduce government and change the culture of back-room dealing that dominated Congress. Among the changes Shadegg has pushed is limiting the use of “earmarks,” last-minute adds to appropriations bills that have become the favored tool for special interest legislation.
Though he finished last, Shadegg said he rallied enough support from reformers that they will have the clout to force the new leadership to follow through on promises to end the practices that led to the Abramoff scandal.
“It leaves the reformers with a partial victory,” Shadegg said. “It puts us in a position where we continue to have to fight. We have to push this leadership team to find out if they really are committed to reform or if they just kind of gave a nod to reform as a result of my candidacy.
"If we don't change the way Washington works, I think there will be a price to pay at the ballot box come next November.”