Former House Speaker Hastert to Retire

Longest-serving GOP Speaker to announce retirement in Illinois hometown Friday.

Aug. 14, 2007 — -- Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Illinois, will announce on Friday that he will retire from Congress, Republican sources tell ABC News.

At a Friday morning press conference at the Kendall County Courthouse in his hometown of Yorkville, Ill., Hastert -- who has served in Congress since 1986 -- will make his formal announcement. It remains unclear whether Hastert will serve out the remainder of his term.

Elected House Speaker in 1999, Hastert served in that role until the GOP lost control of Congress in January 2007, the longest a Republican has ever served as Speaker of the House.

When he took office, in the midst of the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Hastert pleaded for bipartisanship. "Solutions to problems cannot be found in a pool of bitterness," the former high school wrestling coach said at the time. "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."

That didn't last very long as tension between Democrats and Republicans grew exacerbated after the Florida recount, the war in Iraq, and the bitter divisions that have marked the Bush presidency.

There were certainly signs that Hastert wasn't planning on continuing in Congress. His biography on his congressional Web site hasn't been updated since Republicans lost control of the House in November 2006. His campaign Web site had been taken down. He had less than $76,000 in his campaign re-election fund.

Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who is also retiring at the end of his term, recently told "Congressional Quarterly" that "everybody was surprised when he stayed on beyond his speakership. He had reached the pinnacle of his political career as speaker. Staying on was totally about keeping the seat Republican and having some say in who his successor is."