WASHINGTON — There was a jubilant, circus-like atmosphere outside of the U.S. House chamber on Thursday afternoon, as Democrats brought an end to their day-long "sit-in" over gun control. But one man walking past the bullhorns and cheers found the scene repellant.
It was former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
If the Sugar Land Republican were still running the show at the U.S. Capitol, he said, he would've had no mercy for the Democrats participating.
"I’m heartbroken. The destruction of dignity, decorum of the people’s House," he said. "That House doesn't belong to those members. It belongs to the people of the United States, and for them to desecrate it like they just did is beyond me."
DeLay left Congress in 2006 amid an indictment over alleged money laundering. He was later convicted, but those charges were overturned on appeal.
Though it's been more than than a decade since his fearsome reign at the Capitol, DeLay says he knows exactly what he'd do:
"You cannot allow things like this to happen without some consequences," he said. "I think what I’d do is file ethics charges against every member that did this."
DeLay was in Washington promoting a new book, he said, and helping to get other Republicans elected. Just not his party's presumptive presidential nominee.
DeLay said he remains on the fence when it comes to Donald Trump.
“I’m not there yet. [I] may wait until voting day before I decide whether I am going to vote or not," he said. "There’s plenty of time between now and then for him to convince me he’s a conservative, a constitutional conservative."
DeLay served in Republican leadership in the late 1990s, when the GOP impeached former President Bill Clinton over his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Many saw the move as political overreach, and Republicans lost seats in the House in 1998.
When asked if Trump's effort to resurface Hillary Clinton's personal issues was smart politics, DeLay paused for a moment.
"It’s a good question," he said. "I cannot answer that."
Then he added: "I think the good thing about Trump is he tells it like it is, and he tells the truth, sometimes."
Promotion: Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is speaking at the 2016 Texas Tribune Festival. Find out more at texastribune.org/festival