DeLay told reporters he was emotional after Schiavo's death and shouldn't have said things the way he did, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Fuss. But he said he is still asking the House Judiciary Committee to look at the way the courts rejected Congress' actions and wouldn't rule out trying to impeach some of the judges.
DeLay's comments came as White House spokesman Scott McClellan said President Bush considers the Texas Republican, who is battling ethics allegations, a friend, but suggested that the majority leader is more of a business associate than a social pal.
"I think there are different levels of friendship with anybody," McClellan said.
DeLay addressed remarks he made in the hours after the brain-damaged Florida woman died on March 31, following a long political and legal battle. "I said something in an inartful way and I shouldn't have said it that way and I apologize for saying it that way," DeLay said at a crowded news conference in his Capitol office.
Shortly after Schiavo's death, DeLay said it represented a failure of the legal system. DeLay's statement also said, "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior."
At his news conference, DeLay said, "I believe in an independent judiciary. I repeat, of course I believe in an independent judiciary." At the same time, he added, the Constitution gives Congress power to oversee the courts.
"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said.
Asked whether he favors impeachment for any of the judges in the Schiavo case, he did not answer directly.
Instead, he referred reporters to an earlier request he made to the House Judiciary Committee to look into "judicial activism" and Schiavo's case in particular.
Congress enacted unusual legislation in the days before Schiavo's death in hopes of lending legal support to Schiavo's parents, who were seeking a federal court order to have their daughter's feeding tube reconnected. They were turned down at every level, including the U.S. Supreme Court, despite the measure that President Bush signed quickly after it passed.