November 15th, 2007
05:37 PM ET
15 years ago

Hastert announces resignation

Hastert announced Thursday he is leaving Congress at the end of the year.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In a brief speech tempered with reflection, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, announced his midterm resignation Thursday afternoon on the House floor.

"The time has come for me to make my last speech from this podium," he told his colleagues. "Our Founding Fathers envisioned a citizen legislature and it's time for this legislator to return to being a private citizen."

Peering up occasionally from his written speech, the congressman said, "I do hope that I have left a few footprints behind that may be of value to those who come after me - just as I have benefited from the footprints of those who I followed to this most wonderful of institutions, the People's House."

After his speech, the current speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, D-California, called Hastert honorable, "not just for the office he holds, but by virtue of his character, his leadership and his contributions to our country."

She added, "Thank you for your leadership, congratulations on a great career. God truly blessed America with your service."

Last month, two congressional GOP sources told CNN that Hastert, the longest-serving Republican speaker in history, would give up his congressional seat rather than serve out the remaining year of his term.

"I think he is just done with being a member of Congress," a GOP aide told CNN. Hastert did not give a specific reason Thursday for his resignation.

Over the summer, Hastert, 65, had said he would not seek re-election in the state's 14th District, which he has served for more than two decades. He became speaker of the House in January 1999, and stepped down after Democrats garnered the majority in the 2006 midterm elections, ending 12 years of GOP control.

An aide to Hastert said Thursday he will retire by the end of December.

In his Thursday address to the House, the former teacher and wrestling coach reflected on his long career in politics, listing health care, tax and Social Security legislation among his achievements.

More importantly, however, he said, was what he described as the representatives' "most solemn obligation": providing for the nation's defense.

"On Sept. 11, 2001, I became a wartime speaker and together we became a wartime Congress. On that dark day, our Congress was united - we were not Republicans or Democrats, we were just Americans. We stood shoulder-to-shoulder on the steps of this Capitol and vowed to do whatever was necessary," he said.

"We tried to bind the wounds of those victimized by the attacks."

"Did we get it 100 percent right?" he asked. "Of course not. Only hindsight is 20/20. But through those efforts, and the grace of God, we have avoided additional attacks on American soil."

Hastert's remarks on the attacks of Sept. 11 were met with loud applause.

The portly congressman also considered the "breakdown of civility in our political discourse," something he said he wishes he had been more successful in combating.

"We each have a responsibility to be passionate about our beliefs - that is healthy government - but we also have a responsibility to be civil, open-minded and fair - to listen to one another and work in good faith to find solutions to the challenges facing our nation," he said.

"That is why the American people sent us here. They did not send us here just to get re-elected."

Initially, Hastert's ascent to House leadership seemed unlikely. After Newt Gingrich stepped aside as House speaker following the GOP's dismal performance in the 1998 elections, Bob Livingston of Louisiana was tapped to replace him. But Livingston opted to leave Congress after revelation of an extramarital affair.

House Republican leaders then settled on Hastert - a man with virtually no national profile - for the No. 3 position in the U.S. government.

Hastert built a reputation as a formidable leader and by 2003 his Republican colleagues waived term limits to allow him to continue as their speaker.

His leadership came under scrutiny in 2006 amid the scandal surrounding fellow Republican Mark Foley's contacts with teenage congressional pages.

However, a House ethics report found that neither Hastert nor any other current lawmaker or staffer broke any House rules in handling allegations that Foley, a representative from Florida, was having improper communications with teenage male House pages.

Related video: Watch a clip of Hastert's farewell speech

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Amy, D.C.

    buh bye

    November 15, 2007 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  2. Rodney Dallas TX

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out!

    November 15, 2007 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Wayne, Greenville TX

    Goodbye, Dennis. Don't let the door hit you on your more-than-ample butt on the way out.

    November 15, 2007 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  4. SD Long, Oakland

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

    November 15, 2007 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. Matt, Coppell, TX

    Good Riddance to a slime ball! Dont let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya!

    November 15, 2007 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. Bubba, Swainsboro GA

    . . . and take the Chimp with you?

    November 15, 2007 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  7. Mr. Chips

    I see that high school is out for the day...children making juvenile comments...sigh!

    November 15, 2007 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  8. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Time to go back to Yorkville and dazzle the locals with your tales of how you saved the USA, right Denny?!

    November 15, 2007 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Ray, Venice, CA

    Maybe Hastert and his buddy Mark Foley can now do what they have always wanted...lead a troop of boy scouts.

    November 15, 2007 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  10. Susan, Macedon, New York

    He tried to combat the incivility in politics? Give me a break? He and Trent Lott were responsible for the majority of it!!! Thank God they're both gone!

    Now, if we could just get this congress to actually do something other than write bills that aren't veto-proof, maybe some of the damage they caused could be undone.

    November 15, 2007 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  11. Bradley Schaubs, Greeley, CO

    Another one bites the dust. Another Republican rat leaving the ship. Good riddance.

    At long last, we see the collapse of the evils of the GOP. At this rate, Bush'll have nobody but Cheney by next summer.

    November 15, 2007 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. Chris, Denver

    Another abject Republican failure who will not be missed in the least.

    November 15, 2007 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  13. Anne E., SLC

    GOOD RIDDANCE. I, for one, don't believe God had anything to do with Hastert's "service" to America. However, if, as Nancy Pelosi said, "God truly blessed America" with his service, I shudder to think what He'd have done had He cursed us!
    (and no, it wasn't W. - THAT curse was originally courtesy of the Supreme Court.)

    November 15, 2007 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  14. jw, canadian,ok

    Yo Dennis, Jenni Craig is looking for a new poster boy – since Tommy Lasorda fell off the wagon.

    November 15, 2007 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  15. Keith Franklin, Tn

    Is Dennis joining Newt, and Karl Rove and whoever has created more hatred and partisanship somewhere in LA-LA land?

    Never has so many Repubs done so little for so many folks.

    The problem with guys like Hastert is the re-aligning of districts where you don't have to worry about being challenged at re-election time. Be sure and kiss Tom Delay on your way out!!!

    November 15, 2007 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  16. Jeff, Salt Lake City, UT

    I almost blew Coca Cola across my computer screen when I read Pelosi's comments. "...not just for the office he holds, but by virtue of his character, his leadership and his contributions to our country." What leads her to describe Hastert in that way? Was it his stellar leadership in getting America into a $9 Trillion defecit, was it when he turned a blind eye to the congressional page situation and Mark Foley? That sounds like great leadership and character, doesn't it? When will a politician have the courage to tell people the way it really is. Like, "Congressman Hastert, what can I say, you were here. Good Luck."

    November 15, 2007 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  17. Jed in Texas

    Good riddance!!Say hi to Tom Delayed and the rest of the crooks over on K-Street when you get your new job.Dont forget to have another pork barrel chop or two!

    November 15, 2007 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Terry, El Paso, TX

    The disastrous reign of Republican Conservatism is finally ending. The leadership of that corrupt bunch is heading for the exits, and many of the membership is leaving with them to avoid the ignominy of being ousted by the voters they fooled.

    It is about time. It will take decades to correct the damage they have done to the republic, the world, and the American middle class.

    Goodbye and good riddance.

    November 15, 2007 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  19. Adam, Boise, ID

    That was very generous of Nancy Pelosi to say those things about Congressman Hastert. Putting political preferences aside, I greatly appreciate the work and dedication that Congressman Hastert has done for our country.

    November 15, 2007 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  20. pam Eugene, OR

    I am a democrat and ashamed of nearly all of the posts here.
    The man gave 20 years of his life to serve his country. I am sure he must have done at least 1 good thing in all those years.
    My fellow democrats have become way too nasty. Politics used to be civil and I sure do miss that.

    November 15, 2007 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. grumbles Westport, CT

    Hastert escaped by the skin of his teeth from the Mark Foley scandel. I think the general opinion holds that whether or not he, indeed, did cover this up, he was ultimately responsible. Maybe he or his wife have health issues.......

    November 15, 2007 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  22. Larry Craig, ID

    He will be missed dearly.

    November 15, 2007 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  23. Brutus

    "Vanity Fair alleges that Hastert may have been the recipient of tens of thousands of dollars of secret payments from Turkish officials in exchange for political favors and information."

    They didn't mention this in the blog, but I think these allegations may have played a role in his leaving.

    Ron Paul 2008!

    November 15, 2007 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  24. Paul, Whitestown, Indiana

    Hastert's leaving early is good for the GOP and bad for the Dems because it will put another Republican in there (special elections almost always go to GOP in conservative seats) and the Dems wont try and fight for the seat in 2008. Why? 61 Democrats in the House are in Districts that Bush won in 2004. With congress at an all-time low in approval ratings–Democrats better worry about those 61 seats. Just a thought...

    November 15, 2007 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  25. skeptic

    If former Speaker Hastert truly believed in a citizen legislature, he would not have served in Congress for 15 terms.

    He would have promoted a Constitutional Amendment altering Article I of the Constitution recommending term limits for both Representatives and Senators

    November 15, 2007 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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