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Thomas Stephen Foley

Foley, Thomas Stephen, 1929–2013, U.S. congressman, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (1989–95), b. Spokane, Wash. A lawyer, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 and became a prominent liberal Democratic congressman. He was chairman of the House agriculture committee (1975–81), Democratic whip (1981–87), and majority leader (1987–89). When Speaker Jim Wright resigned in 1989, Foley succeeded him, and as Speaker he achieved a reputation for moderation and bipartisanship. After President Clinton's election, Foley played an important role in passing the 1993 budget plan, helped win House approval of a 1994 ban on assault weapons, and spearheaded the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. In 1992 his reputation was tarnished by revelations of irregularities in the operations of the House bank and post office, both controlled by the office of the Speaker. When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, Foley became the first sitting speaker since 1860 to fail to win reelection from his district. He served U.S. ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2001.

See his biographical Honor in the House (with J. R. Biggs, 1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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