U.S. News

Ex-U.S. House Speaker Hastert to Retire

Dennis Hastert

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert is expected to announce on Friday his retirement from Congress, a House Republican aide said on Tuesday.

"He is going to announce a retirement ... that's definitive," said the aide, who asked not to be identified.

But the aide added that it was not yet clear whether Hastert, the longest-serving Republican speaker before stepping down after the 2006 elections, would leave his Illinois congressional seat immediately or would serve out his term, which runs through next year.

Hastert became speaker, the most powerful position in the House and second in line for the presidency after the vice president, in 1999 and held the office until Democrats took control of chamber last January.

The former high school teacher and wrestling coach was a loyal supporter of President George W. Bush's agenda, including the Iraq war.

Voters in last November's congressional elections ejected Republicans from control of the House and Senate largely because of growing discontent with the war, but also because of a series of ethics scandals that enveloped Republicans in the House.

Following the election defeat, Hastert did not seek his party's top leadership position in the House and became part of the rank-and-file in the 435-member body, although one who still wielded some influence.

Hastert, then a relatively unknown congressman, became speaker after a tumultuous period in U.S. politics, not long after bruising impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton in the late 1990s and the resignation of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Hastert, now in his 11th two-year term in the House, has represented a northern Illinois district west of Chicago.