Hastert to Step Down
Exclusive: The Speaker bows out of the Republican leadership after Democrats take his power. The contest to succeed him will help define the Republican Party in a new era of divided government.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) will not seek reelection to the Republican leadership when his members return as a minority party after taking heavy losses in Tuesday's elections, a Republican official tells TIME. Hastert, 64, a low-key former high school wrestling coach, was beloved by members as a "good cop," compared to the enforcer style of the longtime number two leader, former Rep. Tom Delay (R-Tex.). But Hastert was badly damaged by questions about how much he had known about former Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) and his contact with pages, and members felt Hastert also handled the aftermath of the revelations clumsily.
The battle to succeed him will be bruising, as members attempt to allocate blame for the Foley mess. Among those seeking to replace him at the top of the House leadership, which will now be the minority leader, are House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), now second in the House leadership, and Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), chairman of the House conservative caucus, the Republican Study Committee. Other possible candidates are Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), now chief deputy whip and one of the most popular and hard-working members of the leadership, and Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), now chairman of Energy and Committee.
The Speaker plans to announce his departure this week and perhaps as soon as today, officials said. Leadership elections are scheduled for next Wednesday but are likely to be pushed back to closer to the deadline under party rules, which is Dec. 20.
Hastert had long planned not to seek reelection to his House seat in 2008. His officials biography says he is the first Republican Speaker in more than a century and one of only two Republicans to preside over consecutive electoral seat gains in the U.S House of Representatives, and is also one of two Republicans to be reelected Speaker for four consecutive terms.