Livingston bows out of the speakership
He makes a stunning announcement on House floor; Clinton urges him to reconsiderDecember 19, 1998
Web posted at: 3:37 p.m. EST (2037 GMT)
WASHINGTON (AllPolitics, December 19) -- House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston, reeling from the admission of his own marital infidelities, stunned Washington Saturday by announcing he would not run for speaker when the 106th Congress convenes next month and will quit the House in mid-1999.
Livingston, 55, made his surprise announcement as the House resumed its historic impeachment debate, just two days after he said revelations about his adultery would not drive him from his leadership role. His announcement could set off a new scramble to succeed him among the GOP leadership.
On the House floor, Livingston urged President Bill Clinton to resign, drawing a chorus of "boos" and shouted calls of "You resign!" from Democrats. Then he shocked the chamber by saying he would set an example and step down himself.
"I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. ... I will not stand for speaker of the House on January 6 but rather will remain as backbencher in this Congress that I so dearly love," Livingston said as the House fell silent.
"I was prepared to lead our narrow majority as speaker and I believe I had ... to do a fine job, but I cannot do that job," Livingston said. (972K wav audio file)
Through a spokesman, President Bill Clinton urged Livingston to reconsider his decision, saying he liked and respected him and felt that they could work together on a bipartisan basis. (1008K wav audio file)
"I think the president firmly believes the politics of personal destruction has to ... come to an end," White House Press Secretary Joe Lockhart said. "We need to stop playing these kinds of games in Washington."
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt also urged Livingston to reconsider. "We need to stop destroying imperfect people at the altar of an unattainable morality," Gephardt said.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said he was surprised by Livingston's announcement, but was not surprised "that Bob would put the interest of his country above any personal considerations."
Livingston, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, stepped into the gap after the Republicans' setbacks in the November 3 elections. He was nominated without opposition to serve as the next House speaker, after Speaker Newt Gingrich announced November 7 he would not seek the top House post in the 106th Congress.
Livingston's decision likely will set off a new scramble among Republicans for the speaker's job. During November's campaign, several members expressed interest before deciding not to challenge Livingston.
The possibilities now include Reps. Dennis Hastert, who sources told CNN has decided to run, and Henry Hyde of Illinois, Christopher Cox of California, Bill Archer of Texas and Steve Largent of Oklahoma.
"Hastert is viewed as the consensus candidate, someone who can united moderates and conservatives," an aide to Majority Whip Tom DeLay said.
Largent replied, "No comment," when asked if he would run for speaker.
The report of Livingston's sexual infidelity first appeared on the Web site of Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper. The story said Livingston was called recently and told a story about his past would be coming out soon.
But while first published by Roll Call, sources close to Livingston blamed the revelations on Hustler Magazine publisher Larry Flynt. In October, Flynt offered up to $1 million for information about the sexual affairs of political leaders, saying Republicans were guilty of hypocrisy in their attacks on Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair.
In a related development, David Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, wasted no time in announcing he would run for the Louisiana House seat being vacated by Livingston.
"I am running because there needs to be one member of Congress who stands up for the European-American," Duke said.
Duke, who was in Tampa, Florida, on a book tour, said he has carried Livingston's district twice, in races for governor of Louisiana and U.S. senator from Louisiana. Duke lost both of those statewide races.
CNN's Jonathan Karl and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Saturday, December 19, 1998
Reaction to impeachment mixed, emotional
DeLay, Gingrich support Hastert for House speaker
Clinton appeals for 'reasonable' compromise
What's next in the impeachment process?
Livingston bows out of the speakership
Poll: Public still prefers censure
Transcript: Clinton reacts to impeachment vote
First lady delivers pep talk to Democrats
White House says GOP's strategy is to get Clinton to resign
House roll call: Article I
House roll call: Article II
House roll call: Article III
House roll call: Article IV
Clinton radio address: U.S. is vigilant on Iraq
GOP radio address: Iraq shouldn't stall debate