Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Texas Republican Congressman Richard Armey announced Wednesday that he will not run for re-election at the end of his current term in November 2002.
"The end of this 107th Congress is the time for me to stand down as Majority Leader and as a member of Congress; to take my leave of this place and the people I love so much; and to return home to my beloved 26th District of Texas; and, more importantly, to my beloved wife and family."
The 18-year Republican veteran of the House thanked the people of his congressional district for electing him nine times.
"How very privileged I am to have been given that trust, that responsibility, and the opportunity to serve the values I share with these good people," he said, "faith, freedom, safety, security, and peace in that order."
Armey focused much of his announcement on his family, and what his service in Congress had cost them.
"Too often our service to our nation is a disservice to our families. To our spouses, our years of service seem to be an unbroken string of broken promises and disappointments," he said. "It's as if they were single parents."
"Here's the good news. Throughout all the difficulties that only we who serve here can understand, I have kept the love of a good woman," he said, choking up. Members on both sides of the aisle responded with applause.
He then addressed his wife Susan.
"Honey, I want to thank you for all you years of sacrifice," Armey said, again choking back tears. The House gave Mrs. Armey, who was watching from the gallery, a standing ovation.
Listing by name his five children and their spouses, four grandchildren, his mother-in-law, his sister, and her son, Armey said, "I very much look forward to making up lost time with them."
He turned first to Democrats to say his goodbyes.
"We have many good contests. We are sometimes together, but we are more often in opposition. But, we always represent what we believe. Thank you, my friends. You are constant, consistent, and reliable," he said to the laughter and applause of both Democrats and Republicans.
Armey said what he called the "often too bitter contests" between the parties are not what have impressed him most about the body.
"I cherish the fact that when our country needed us to come together, we stood on the steps of this capitol and hand-in-hand, we sang 'God Bless America,'" he recalled to the applause of House members. "It is that feeling of unity, not the heated exchanges, that I will remember most fondly when I leave here."
Armey then told his fellow Republicans that they should be proud of the accomplishments of their "young majority."
"Twice, now, we've lowered the tax burden on America's working families and left them more in charge of their own hard-earned money," he said. "We reformed a failed welfare system in a way that has saved families. We honored the American people's prosperity by our spending restraint, and we turned government deficits into hard-won surpluses."
Armey singled out House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for special praise.
"Mr. Speaker, you are, in my life's experience, more than anybody else I've ever known, the right man to step up to provide the right leadership at the right time, for all the right reasons, and I thank you. May God bless you."
Hastert said he was surprised by Armey's decision.
"But I understand his motivations for leaving. As always with Dick Armey, those motivations were based on the highest principles," Hastert said in a statement, referring to Armey as one of his closest friends. "He will leave at the end of his term with the knowledge that he has made this Congress a better place."
Armey remembered several historical events that have marked his time in Congress.
"America halted the march of communism in our hemisphere. We inspired the demise of its tyranny in Eastern Europe. The Cold War ended on our terms. The Soviet Union collapsed. The Berlin Wall fell. We won the Gulf War and, as we speak, we are removing the scourge of terrorism from the globe," he said.
"Peace through strength and supply side economics changed this world for the better. Because the American people champion liberty, more people live free today than at anytime in the world's history. Yet, there is more to be done," he concluded, "and it is America who will lead the way."
Armey said that, while he is saddened in announcing his retirement, he is consoled by the fact that he has one year of service remaining in the House.
"One more year in the leadership of this body. I'm looking forward to that being the best year ever," he said. "We are just completing an outstanding legislative year, and we will do even more next year, and I don't intend to miss a minute of it."
Early speculation has House Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas) as the favorite to replace Armey as Majority Leader in 2003, and Delay is said to already be lobbying for the post.