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Former House Speaker Tom Foley has died at age 84. The Washington state Democrat was known for an ability to bring the House to a consensus, but he lost power in 1994 when Newt Gingrich and Republicans took over.
His wife, Heather, told SeattlePI.com that he died early Friday. He was in declining health and she later told the Associated Press that he had been in hospice care in Washington, D.C. since May, notes USA Today.
Foley represented a district in eastern Washington state for 15 terms from 1965 to 1995. He also served as ambassador to Japan during President Bill Clinton’s administration.
“Take it from the great Henry Hyde, who used to say of Tom, 'I wish he were a Republican,'” John Boehner, the current House Speaker and a Republican, said in a statement. “With his passing, the House loses one of its most devoted servants and the country loses a great statesman.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Foley the “quintessential champion of the common good.”
According to Bloomberg, the Spokane native took a leadership role in the Democratic party when he became Majority Whip in 1981. He became majority leader in 1987 and House Speaker in 1989 when Jim Wright resigned.
Foley was a strong advocate against term limits. His successor, Republican George Nethercutt, actually promised only to serve three terms, but served five before a failed 2004 Senate bid.
After his time as an ambassador ended in 2001, Foley stayed in Washington, D.C. to practice law. He and his wife married in 1968.