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Rep. Henry Hyde To Retire

By vouchey in News on Apr 19, 2005 6:13PM

Upon meeting west suburban Congressman Henry Hyde, one can't help but be charmed by his reedy baritone voice and grandfatherly composure. He moves slowly, almost dragging himself forward, due to a painful spinal condition. The presence of Henry Hyde, makes it hard to believe that for thirty years, he has been one of the most ferocious, influential, and effective conservative Congressmen in history.

But maybe it makes it easier to believe why he's retiring. [Hyde's personal note is here.]

Hyde, who turned 81 Monday, has a hard time walking, and because of term limits for chairmen, no longer chairs a committee in the House of Representatives. Those factors, as well as the strong showing of Democratic challenger, Christine Cegelis, last November, make this an opportune time for Hyde to retire.

In Congress since 1975, Henry Hyde has been in the conservative vanguard since the beginning. A staunch pro-lifer, Hyde ushered through the so-called "Hyde Amendment" which banned federal funding of abortions. He was one of the leading defenders of Oliver North during the Iran-Contra hearings, and managed the House's articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton. Yet, unlike other partisan leaders, he always managed to keep a even tone when addressing opponents, avoiding shrill speech and providing bipartisanship tone, if not action.

There's been talk of Hyde's retirement for some time now, his advancing age and Cegelis' 45% showing in November 2004 notwithstanding. Because of House rules enacted in 1994, committee chair tenure are now limited to six years. After reaching that limit in the House Judiciary Committee in 1998 2000, Hyde was given the gavel in the House International Affairs Committee. His tenure there expired in 2004 expires in 2006. Lacking seniority in any other committee, Hyde was will be like a king without a kingdom in the House of Representatives.

Hyde's Congressional district, the 6th, will now be home to one of three significant Congressional races in Illinois. The 8th, a rematch for first-termer and Northwest suburban Democrat Melissa Bean, and the Southwest Side's 3rd District Democrat, Dan Lipinski, who was granted his seat by filial right from his father, former Rep. Bill Lipinski.