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Former Powerful House Republican Leader Leaves Congress

A formerly powerful Republican lawmaker who became mired in the scandal involving links between members of Congress and a well-known Washington lobbyist, has left Congress. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay used a farewell speech to defend conservative principles and urge Republicans to stick to their agenda as they try to retain control of Congress in November elections.

DeLay was nicknamed "The Hammer," a name friends and foes attached to him as much for his ability to push legislation through the House of Representatives during his years as majority leader, as for his tough tactics dealing with political opponents.

A key target of opposition Democrats since 2002 when he became majority leader, he was admonished three times by the House ethics committee.

In 2005 he was forced to step down temporarily after being indicted on money laundering and campaign finance violation charges in his home state of Texas. He denied any wrongdoing, accusing political opponents of trying to destroy him.

DeLay was also implicated in the influence-peddling scandal involving former Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, with whom he had close ties.

Federal prosecutors continue to investigate Abramoff's connections with members of Congress and their aides, and one of DeLay's former aides pleaded guilty as part of that investigation.

DeLay announced last January he would not attempt a return to the majority leader position, and Republicans replaced him with Ohio Republican Congressman John Boehner.

In a farewell speech on the House floor [Thursday], DeLay made no mention of his legal problems, but defended his behavior as majority leader: "I have scraped and clawed for every vote, every amendment, for every word of every bill that I believed in my heart would protect human freedom and defend human dignity. I have done so at all times, honorably and honestly, as God is my witness, and history is my judge," he said.

Democrats have attempted to highlight DeLay's ethics problems and those facing other Republicans ahead of November congressional elections they hope will go there way.

DeLay's farewell remarks were marked by some controversy as Democrats protested Republican's use of regular legislative time for the speech.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi was asked by reporters earlier to describe what she thinks will be DeLay's legacy. "A larger part of his legacy will be a culture of corruption that he built here in the Congress of the United States," he said.

The 59-year-old DeLay continues to fight criminal charges in Texas, but has pledged to continue campaigning for Republican candidates for Congress.