NRCC Chief Sticks Up For Rep. Renzi

Rep. Tom Cole, head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, broke with other leadership members today, notably Minority Leader John Boehner, and refused to call on embattled Rep. Rick Renzi to resign. "He's got every right to do what he thinks," Cole said of Renzi, who is not seeking re-election in Arizona and who's facing an indictment on extortion, money laundering, wire fraud, and other charges. Boehner has strongly suggested that Renzi step down but Cole said instead, "I wish him well."

Speaking to reporters today, Cole said that Renzi has the right to prove his innocence and that he has to answer only to his voters, not the House GOP leadership.

"I didn't elect Rick Renzi," he said. While Cole said that the leadership has "made it very clear that we've got concerns," he believes that the GOP will still hold Renzi's seat in the fall election despite the controversy. He noted that it is a district in which President Bush took 51 percent of the vote and he added that Arizona Sen. John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, should be more popular than Bush, meaning that the party should retain the seat.

By Paul Bedard