Ten years ago today one of the most heinous acts in the recent history of the House of Representatives took place. Tom DeLay, the former owner of a pesticide company in Sugarland, Texas and the Majority Whip had forced the VA/HUD Appropriations Committee had added seventeen riders to the annual appropriations bill which would among other things prevent the EPA from enforcing the Clean Air or Clean Water Acts. The legislation was to have a profound impact in Florida as it would have redefined what wetland protection and could have potentially opened up greater portions of the Everglades for development. The Petroleum industry had essentially written the bill in DeLay’s office and had a major stake in making sure it was passed.
Sherwood Boehlert, a New York moderate Republican (who was three years later challenged in a GOP primary by Randall Terry a founder of Operation Rescue) who has a strong green streak offered an amendment on the floor to kill these provisions. In a shocking vote, over 40 Republican spilt with the GOP leadership the first vote the leadership had lost all year in the first year the Republicans had the majority in the House since 1954. This vote took place on Thursday July 27th.
On Monday July 31st, when many members were still out of town, DeLay had a member who had voted on victorious side reconsider the vote and the Amendment died on a tie 210-210 vote. I was personally tracking the issue and in the days before constant political news on the cable news networks, I did not realize that the amendment had been reconsidered until later in the week! The Senate stripped the provision, but the damage to the GOP was done. Interestingly, 8 Florida Republicans (Foley, Goss, Miller, Shaw, Ros-Lehtinen, Diaz-Balart, Scarborough and Young) were among the 40 or so Republicans that split with DeLay and the leadership on this issue. The reason was obvious. Florida voters, especially Florida Republican voters are environmentalists. Florida business and tourism depends on a clean environment. Our low rate of taxation depends on an attractive business and tourist climate which is based on a clean coastline, pristine beaches and Everglades preservation.
Almost immediately, Dick Morris and the Clinton re-election team began airing brilliantly marketed early ads in Florida concerning the GOP attempts to slash Environmental Protection. These ads were effective largely because they defined the GOP long before the Election season began, and before the GOP spin machine was fully operational and secondly because they were never aired in Washington D.C. or New York City where the elite political media resides. By the time the talking heads inside the beltway realized these ads were running and began dissecting it on the Sunday morning shows, the damage had been done and the GOP was to unable to recover in time for the 1996 Election cycle in Florida. So the next time we think about Bill Clinton’s smashing Florida win in 1996 give a little credit to the industry whore from Sugarland, Texas whose corruption has defined a generation of leadership in the House of Representatives.
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- I am the host of the Major League Soccer Talk and EPL Talk Podcasts and am frequent guest on other (world) football shows. I am also the publisher of various other websites including this one. I work in public/government relations in addition to my soccer work and have a keen interest in history, politics, aviation, travel,and the world around us.