DeLay’s defenders, in addition to suggesting that he was being sarcastic, also say that the full context of his remarks has been missed.
From the transcript:
“Mr. DeLay. After 11 years of Republican majority we pared it down pretty good. I mean, in our own — this year, our own budget, and our — you know, we passed all of our appropriations bill[s]. If you will look at the combined effect of those appropriations bills, we eliminated over 100 offices and more programs. We have been doing that for 11 years.
“Q So are you ready to claim victory in that? Are you guys there?
“Mr. DeLay. I am ready to declare ongoing victory. It is still a process. After this reconciliation process, when we reform all the entitlement programs, that is another victory or a small battle. And the effort that we have been going for the last 11 years. Yes.”
I don’t see how this context changes much. He is looking at the current budget picture and assessing it in a way that most conservatives will find mind-bogglingly off. The sarcasm defense, meanwhile, is, as John Hawkins has pointed out, hard to reconcile with this passage from the Washington Times story that launched this controversy:
“[Citizens Against Government Waste] and the Heritage Foundation also suggest rescinding the 6,000-plus earmarked projects in the recently passed highway bill.
“But Mr. DeLay said those projects are ‘important infrastructure’ and eliminating them could undermine the economy as Congress tries to offer hurricane relief.
“‘It is right to borrow to pay for it,’ he said. ‘But it is not right to attack the very economy that will pay for it.’
“Mr. Schatz [the head of CAGW], though, said the highway bill included projects such as flowers for the Ronald Reagan freeway in California, which he said aren’t essential spending.”