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Former US politician Tom Foley passes away

Former US politician Tom Foley passes away

FORMER U.S. politician Tom Foley has passed away at the age of 84.

Mr. Foley, who was a Democrat, had served as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1989 until 1995 and had been credited with reaching across the political divide with Republicans. He passed away at a time when both sides of the house have been bitterly divided in a battle over the country’s budget.

After being elected to represent north-western Washington state in the surge of Democratic gains under President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, Mr. Foley began his steady rise within the party. After serving as chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in the mid-1970s, he became a majority whip and then majority leader in 1987. Two years later he became Speaker following the resignation of his party colleague Jim Wright.

Mr. Foley’s willingness to work for fairness and consensus did, at times, frustrate some people in his own party. The veteran Democratic congressman Tip O’Neill once said Mr. Foley “could argue three sides of every issue”. But Mr. Foley remained adamant about his stance, telling his colleagues: “...the speakership isn’t a dictatorship”. He always believed his efforts at bi-partisanship were in the interests of better public policy.

Given the recent disagreements in Washington DC over the budget, it was interesting to note that Speaking Foley had been an active in negotiating a deal in the 1990 budget when the talks resulted in President Bush breaking his pledge not to raise taxes.

Despite his personal reservations and opposition from his own party, the speaker also allowed the House to vote on the resolution that approved the 1990 Iraq war.

His time in office came to an end when he lost his seat in the November 1994 elections in what became known as the Republican Revolution led by Newt Gingrich, who was to become speaker. Mr. Foley’s defeat meant he was the first sitting speaker to lose his seat in an election since 1860.

The former speaker returned to public life in 1997 when he was appointed as America’s ambassador to Japan by President Clinton.

Mr. Foley passed away after suffering a stroke.

President Obama led tributes. The President said: “America has lost a legend of the United States Congress. Tom’s straightforward approach helped him find common ground with members of both parties.”

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