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Texas Ally Says Wright Plans to Quit This Week : Speaker Gives No Hint of Next Move but Fellow Democrats Say Openly He Must Leave Post Soon

Times Staff Writers

One of House Speaker Jim Wright’s most stalwart Texas allies said Tuesday that he expects the Speaker to resign from Congress this week because of “blowtorch” political pressure from his Democratic Party colleagues.

Rep. Charles Wilson (D-Tex.) said that Friday’s unexpected decision by Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Merced), the majority whip, to quit the House rather than face an ethical ordeal has put additional pressure on Wright to leave instead of fighting ethics charges himself.

The Texas Democrat, however, returned from a weekend in seclusion without announcing any decision on his plans. Another close home-state supporter, Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), said that Wright told him he is still considering “a range of options” that presumably include choices other than resigning.

Some Losing Patience

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Even so, fellow Democrats are losing patience with the Speaker and began to say more openly that he must go soon to spare the House and the Democratic Party from any more damage.

“I would hope the Speaker would take a good, hard look at what Coelho did,” said Rep. Jim Slattery (D-Kan.). “I think it’s in the best interests of this institution and the best interests of the Democratic Party to get this mess behind us. Regrettably, that involves the resignation of the Speaker.”

Another prominent House Democrat, who asked not to be identified, added: “Wright’s going to have to go. If he doesn’t, then we’ll get a delegation together to go visit him and tell him he has to go.”

Awaits Panel Ruling

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The Speaker, talking briefly to reporters, said that he is awaiting a ruling by the House Ethics Committee on motions to dismiss major charges against him.

While he indicated that he has largely made up his mind on his next move, Wright gave no hint about what it is.

The panel, which is scheduled to meet Thursday, is regarded as likely to reject Wright’s legal challenge to the case against him.

In addition, Rep. John T. Myers (R-Ind.), the ranking GOP member of the panel, said that there is a possibility the committee might vote to conduct a preliminary inquiry into two additional areas at its session this week, thus expanding the year-old investigation of Wright’s financial affairs.

In his remarks, Wright said that he would have a statement on his plans later this week.

‘Want to Be Fair’

“I think I know what I should do,” he said. “I think I know what I believe to be in my best interests and the interests of the institution. I want to be fair to myself, my family, my reputation, and I want to be fair to this institution that I’ve served for 34 years.”

Wilson asserted that Wright is getting a “bum deal” because the charges alleging 69 violations of House rules were brought and would be judged by the same 12 members of the Ethics Committee.

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In addition, Wilson added, the fellow Democrats urging the Speaker to resign are motivated by the adverse political fallout generated by the case.

“He’s being judged by a jury that’s under enormous political pressure,” Wilson concluded.

Meantime, the jockeying for leadership posts grew more frenetic Tuesday with most House members assuming that Wright will leave soon and be replaced by Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley of Washington.

Gephardt Seen Leading

Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), a former presidential candidate, appeared to have a lock on Foley’s job, according to many Democratic insiders.

In a hot contest for Coelho’s No. 3 job as party whip, Rep. William H. Gray III (D-Pa.) and Rep. David E. Bonior (D-Mich.) are off to a fast start, along with Rep. Beryl Anthony Jr. (D-Ark.).

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles) jumped into the scramble Monday--a day after his probable opponents--but his supporters said that he has a good chance of victory.

The 26-member California Democratic delegation backs Waxman, as do some others who got campaign help from him, his supporters argued.

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In a related development, Rep. Barbara B. Kennelly (D-Conn.) announced that she will run for chairman of the Democratic Caucus if Gray, the incumbent, wins the whip race and vacates that post.

Kennelly would face Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and, if she won, would become the highest-ranking woman in the House.

Coelho, who startled his colleagues by announcing Friday that he would resign June 15 to prevent a prolonged investigation of his $100,000 investment in a junk bond with the aid of a savings and loan official, said in a Fresno television interview that he had planned to leave Congress at the end of the second session in 1990 even before the controversy over the purchase.

He said that he and his wife, Phyllis, decided last winter that it was time for him to leave public service and seek a higher-paying career in private life at a time when his two teen-aged daughters are finishing high school and preparing to enter college.


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