After a spate of corruption scandals snared several House Republicans, the party declared its sincere intention to reform politics as usual on Capitol Hill. That they could make such declarations with a straight face is remarkable.

In the days since they have made abundantly clear that they like politics as usual just fine. They picked a politician with strong ties to lobbyists _ he even rents his apartment from one _ as majority leader.

Now Rep. Tom DeLay, the indicted lawmaker whom Rep. John Boehner of Ohio replaces, has been rewarded as well by supportive colleagues with coveted legislative positions. DeLay will wield considerable power in the House again from a seat on the Appropriations Committee while he awaits trial in Texas on charges of illegally laundering corporate campaign donations.

Ironically, DeLay fills a committee vacancy left by Randy “Duke” Cunningham of California, who resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.

And so it goes.

Even richer than rejoining the powerful appropriations panel is DeLay’s appointment to a subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is examining the influence-peddling scandal involving ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and a group of obliging politicians that includes DeLay.

The disgraced lobbyist was a close pal of the Texas Republican. An added bonus to DeLay’s subcommittee seat will be overseeing NASA, a choice subject for the former majority leader since the Johnson Space Center is in his Houston-area district.

“Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA,” said Bill Burton of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Republicans in Congress just can’t seem to resist standing by their man.”

Just like old times.

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