Jonathan Weisman and Shailagh Murray, of the Washington Post report on the House reaction to the Abramoff scandal:

An internal battle is underway among House Republicans to permanently replace Rep. Tom DeLay (Tex.) as majority leader and put in place a new leadership lineup that is better equipped to deal with the growing corruption scandal.

The GOP House is like a listing ship. It has struck an iceberg, and no one has yet been able to assess the degree of damage to the hull. The captain’s mate is in the brig, the crew no longer trusts the captain’s leadership, and there is little time to waste.

Some members are hoping to plug the hole and save the ship, while others are racing for the lifeboats.

But, back to that man in the brig:

Leadership aides and DeLay allies said that, in light of the Texas case and Abramoff’s plea agreements, they now expect DeLay to soon renounce claims to the leadership post he was forced to relinquish under GOP House rules when he was indicted in September — and certainly before a planned House Republican retreat on Feb. 9.

“The environment has changed. I don’t even need to qualify that,” said the GOP leadership member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he does not want to be seen as pressuring DeLay to step aside.

The reign of DeLay is over. His career is kaput. Now the GOP needs to decide who will take his place. Will it be Roy Blunt, who is filling in as majority leader on an interim basis?

The Missourian would enter a leadership election as the favorite to take DeLay’s place as majority leader…

But other members, particularly committee chairmen, are stressing the leadership’s blunders, including the embarrassing defeat of a spending bill funding labor, health and education programs, and the initial pulling of the budget measure from House consideration for lack of votes.

There are also concerns that Blunt is too close to DeLay and will not do enough to improve the perception problem. As a result, there are several other candidates for the position.

Workforce Committee Chairman John A. Boehner (Ohio), a former House leader…has been maneuvering for a comeback.

But other potential candidates could add unexpected twists, especially if rank-and-file Republicans decide that neither Blunt nor Boehner would present a fresh response to the corruption scandal triggered by Jack Abramoff, a GOP lobbyist with close ties to DeLay.

Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), chairman of the conservative Republican Study Committee, recently said in an Internet chat that he had “no present intention of seeking any leadership position at this time” but that circumstances could change.

A potential bid by Pence, who has angered some members with what they consider grandstanding on a host of issues, has prompted some conservatives to reach out to the low-key Rep. John Shadegg (Ariz.) as an alternative. Rep. Zach Wamp (Tenn.) has announced his intention to run for a leadership post, saying yesterday that “the leadership of Congress needs to be above reproach.” Other dark horses could emerge as members scramble for a consensus candidate.

John Boehner is the most likely candidate to upset Blunt’s ambitions. But, he has enough skeletons in his closet to make many members nervous. In addition to Shadegg, Pence, and Wamp, there are a couple other longshots.

Alternatively, some leadership sources say discontented GOP members could draft a more experienced lawmaker, such as House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (Calif.), who would have the weight of his powerful panel and his big state delegation behind him. Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield dismissed such speculation, saying Lewis “likes the job he has.”

…One leadership source close to DeLay said some members hope to draft Rep. Mike Rogers (Mich.), a former FBI agent who specialized in public corruption cases, for that post to signal that the party is taking the Abramoff scandal seriously.

I’d advise Rep. Mike Rogers to switch his party allegiance if he wants to make a statement about corruption cases. But, he might be the right choice, from a perception standpoint, to replace DeLay.

Whatever they finally decide, they better be damn sure their choice does not wind up getting indicted in the Arbramoff dragnet. I have a feeling the members are asking each other some tough questions.

As an outside witness, it doesn’t appear there is a well-organized plan to save the ship (their majority in the House). And I celebrate the effective end of Tom DeLay’s disgraceful career.

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