Dennis Hastert

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Dennis Hastert
Dennis Hastert

John Dennis Hastert (born January 2 1942), American politician, has been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives since 1987, representing the 14th District of Illinois (map ( He has been Speaker of the House since 1999.


Early life

Hastert was born in Aurora, Illinois, was educated at Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University, and was a teacher, athletic coach, business owner and member of the Illinois House of Representatives before entering the House.

Rise to the Speakership

Hastert's rise to the Speakership came unexpectedly. Following a disappointing Republican performance in the 1998 elections, Speaker Newt Gingrich abruptly resigned from the Speakership and left Congress. Representative Robert Livingston of Louisiana was Speaker-designate after Gingrich's resignation, but after admitting to an extra-marital affair (revealed by pornography publisher Larry Flynt), Livingston too announced that he would resign his seat. This series of events occurred amid the impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

The two other likely candidates for the Speakership seemed to be Majority Leader Dick Armey and Chief Whip Tom DeLay. However, both were seen as vulnerable. Armey had only recently - and only barely - deflected a challenge from Representative Steve Largent to unseat him as Majority Leader. DeLay - as controversial then as now - was aware that with a sharply reduced majority (indeed, it was at least in part Gingrich's prediction of a 30-seat win, and subsequent 5-seat loss, that had precipitated the need for a new Speaker), he would be too controversial a Speaker for the majority to reliably transact business in such a closely divided Congress.

With Livingston's withdrawal, and with both Armey and DeLay demurring, the leadership turned to Hastert, then serving as Chief Deputy Whip, the highest appointed leadership position in the Republican caucus.

Following his election as Speaker, Hastert unusually delivered his acceptance speech from the floor, allowing Minority Leader Richard Gephardt to preside briefly. Hastert noted the need for both parties to work together, saying: Solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness. They can be found in an environment in which we trust one another's word; where we generate heat and passion, but where we recognize that each member is equally important to our overall mission of improving the life of the American people.

As Speaker

Prior to his election as Speaker, Hastert had been a low-profile member of Congress, and has remained one of the most low-profile Speakers in recent years. Although he is the nominal leader of the House Republicans, he does not take a public leadership role, and many feel that Tom DeLay and his fellow Southerners remain the real party leaders. Hastert denies this, claiming that he and DeLay work as partners. Some have offered the observation that while Gingrich was a bombastic strategist, Hastert is a quiet tactician; the contast of his predecessor may have exaggerated Hastert's preferred working style.

In 2001, Hastert visited Osweiler, the village in Luxembourg where his ancestors are from.

In September 2004, billionaire currency trader George Soros filed an official complaint with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct charging Hastert with implying Soros received illegal drug money during radio and television interviews. Soros claimed that Hastert's comments "strongly suggests a deliberate effort to use smear tactics, intimidation and falsehoods to silence criticism."

External links

Preceded by:
John E. Grotberg
U.S. Representative of Illinois's 14th Congressional District
1987 – present (a)
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Newt Gingrich
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
January 6, 1999 – present (a)
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Richard B. Cheney
United States Presidential Line of Succession
Succeeded by:
Ted Stevens

Template:Succession footnote Template:End box

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