Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hastert Faces Intense Pressure

With Republicans' woes deepening, House Speaker Dennis Hastert is holding fast against calls for him to resign over the congressional-page scandal. But there appears to be a real chance that the Illinois Republican could step down after next month's election even if his party retains power.

A new poll shows voter support for the party slipping, and Mr. Hastert and his divided leadership face immense pressure to respond more emphatically to the stream of revelations about former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit cyber-communications with teenage former pages.

"We have to do something different, more dramatic," said Rep. Ray LaHood (R., Ill.). "This is a political mess and what we've done so far is not working. Somebody has to take responsibility for this. It is on our watch."
At a news conference yesterday evening in West Palm Beach, Fla., Mr. Foley's attorney announced that the former lawmaker is gay and said Mr. Foley, a Catholic who attended Catholic schools, had been molested between the ages of 13 and 15 by a clergyman. But the lawyer, David Roth, said his client had never engaged in physical sexual relations with a minor despite the nature of his online contacts.

The pattern followed by Mr. Foley, a Florida Republican who resigned abruptly on Friday, was to pursue pages after they had ended their tenure at the Capitol. ABC News, for example, posted new communications yesterday in which Mr. Foley appears to have interrupted a vote on the House floor in 2003 to engage in Internet sex with a teenager who was still in high school but no longer a page.

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