Springfield Journal Register

December 13, 2001

Rep. LaHood considers leadership race 


WASHINGTON — Rep. Ray LaHood is considering running for one of two House leadership positions opening up next year because of House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s retirement.

The Peoria Republican said Wednesday he would put a new, more conciliatory face on the party.

"I think people generally view me as somebody who can bring people together," LaHood said, adding that he wanted to talk to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Yorkville, and others before making a decision.

Others are moving quickly to solidify their support.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Texas, wasted no time in seeking commitments to help him win Armey’s post, the second-highest position in House leadership. DeLay’s deputy, Roy Blunt, R-Mo., is seeking DeLay’s whip position, the third-highest position.

The ascension of DeLay and Blunt would continue the conservatives’ dominance over House leadership. A group of moderate Republicans including LaHood met Wednesday to discuss the leadership races next year.

A DeLay-Blunt team "is not a good thing for the party," LaHood said. "We need new blood, new faces, new ideas. These jobs only come around every 10 years."

LaHood said he would provide a kinder, gentler leadership.

Where DeLay "relishes being called "the hammer,’ I’d rather be called the velvet glove," LaHood said. He also points to his lengthy experience in the House, beginning as an aide to then-House Minority Leader Bob Michel, R-Peoria, before he was elected to replace Michel in the House in 1994.

LaHood’s knowledge of House procedure has led House leaders to call on him to preside over difficult House floor votes including President Clinton’s impeachment.

LaHood, disturbed over the increasingly partisan tone of House debates, also helped establish a bipartisan retreat aimed at promoting civility and improving communications among House members.

However, LaHood has an independent streak that may not sit too well with party loyalists.

He was one of seven Republican House members to vote against a $100 billion economic stimulus package approved by the House in October. He said the country had too many other pressing needs in the war against terrorism and that Congress should wait to assess the effects of the earlier tax cut, which he supported.

On Oct. 12, LaHood was one of three Republicans to vote against an anti-terrorism bill, but he supported a revised version of the bill two weeks later that put an expiration date on broad new law enforcement powers.

Most notably, he refused to sign the "Contract with America" when Republicans won control of the House in 1994.

LaHood said either of the leadership posts would improve his ability to safeguard the interests of Illinois and particularly his central Illinois district.