J. Dennis Hastert became Speaker of the House in 1999. He is now serving his second term as Speaker and his eighth term as the Republican Congressman for Illinois's 14th Congressional District.
As Speaker, Hastert is responsible for the day-to-day functions of the U.S. House. When he succeeded Newt Gingrich, he broke with tradition by delivering his acceptance speech from the House floor.
Hastert has remained committed to the four-part agenda he outlined the day he became speaker -- lowering taxes, improving education, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, and bolstering national defense.
Under Hastert's leadership, the 106th Congress balanced the budget for the fourth year in a row; paid down $625 billion in public debt; locked away 100 percent of Social Security and Medicare dollars to be spent solely on Social Security and Medicare and not other government programs; sent more education dollars and decision-making to local classrooms; stepped-up and enhanced medical research; and worked to revitalize low-income neighborhoods in urban and rural areas.
Prior to his election as Speaker in 1999, Hastert served as Chief Deputy Majority Whip, a leadership position he had held since the election of the 104th Congress in 1994. He also served as Chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on National Security, International Affairs and Criminal Justice. There, he had broad oversight for the Departments of State, Defense and Justice, as well as the nation's War on Drugs and the 2000 Census. As a member of the House Commerce Committee, Hastert had jurisdiction over energy policy, interstate and foreign commerce, broadcast and telecommunications policy, food, health and drug issues.
Additionally, Hastert has been the House Republican point person on health care reform. He has chaired the Speaker's Steering Committee on Health and the Resource Group on Health, and he helped author the health care reform bill, which was signed into law by President Clinton in 1996 to expand coverage to the uninsured. In the 105th Congress, Hastert again was tapped by the House Leadership to chair the House Working Group on Health Care Quality, which ultimately authored the Patient Protection Act.
During his years in Congress, Hastert championed legislation to balance the federal budget, cut taxes and government waste and clean-up the environment. For instance, he led the nationwide fight with U.S. Senator John McCain to repeal the Social Security Earnings Limit that kept millions of senior citizens from working. He also has passed legislation to reduce government regulations in areas such as trucking and telecommunications in order to increase competition and consumer choice.
Prior to his being elected to the House, Hastert served for six years in the Illinois House of Representatives, where he spearheaded legislation on child abuse prevention, property tax reform, educational excellence and economic development. While there, he also led an effort that resulted in the adoption of a new public utilities act.
Hastert spent the first 16 years of his career as a government and history teacher at Yorkville High School. In addition to teaching, he coached football and wrestling and led the Yorkville High School Foxes to victory at the 1976 Illinois State Wrestling Championship; later that year, he was named Illinois Coach of the Year. Hastert, a former high school and college wrestler himself, was inducted as an Outstanding American into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma in 2000. In 2001, the United States Olympic Committee named him Honorary Vice President of the American Olympic movement.
Hastert is a 1964 graduate of Wheaton (IL) College, where he earned a bachelor's degree in economics. He attended graduate school at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, where he earned a master's degree in the philosophy of education in 1967. Hastert lives in Yorkville, Illinois with his wife Jean and their three Labrador retrievers. They have two grown sons.
Whenever he can find free time, Hastert enjoys attending wrestling meets, going fishing, restoring vintage automobiles, carving and painting duck decoys.