WASHINGTON Former Rep. Henry Hyde, the Illinois Republican who steered the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton and was a hero of the anti-abortion movement, died Thursday. He was 83.
Mary Ann Schultz, a spokeswoman for Rush University Medical Center, said Hyde died Thursday at 2:30 a.m. CST at that hospital. She said Hyde, who underwent open-heart surgery in July, was admitted for persistent renal failure related to his cardiac condition and suffered from a fatal arrhythmia.
Hyde retired from Congress at the end of the last session. Earlier this month, President Bush presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
"During more than 30 years as a congressman, he represented the people of Illinois with character and dignity and always stood for a strong and purposeful America," Bush said in a statement Thursday. "This fine man believed in the power of freedom, and he was a tireless champion of the weak and forgotten. He used his talents to build a more hopeful America and promote a culture of life."
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said in a statement: "In his respect for the institutional integrity of the House of Representatives, Henry took second place to no one."
"Henry Hyde was a credit to public service and to the House of Representatives," said Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. "He practiced the old-school values like civility, which help make the legislative process work. And he knew how to defuse a difficult situation with humor."
The white-maned, physically imposing Hyde was a throwback to a different era, a man who was genuinely liked by his opponents for his wit, charm and fairness. But he could also infuriate them with his positions on some of the more controversial issues of the day.
He made a name for himself in 1976, just two years after his first election from the district that includes O'Hare Airport, by attaching an amendment to a spending bill banning the use of federal funds to carry out abortions.
What came to be known as the "Hyde Amendment" has since become a fixture in the annual debate over federal spending.