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Sources: Armey contemplating retirement

DeLay eyes powerful House post


From Kate Snow
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Dick Armey, the Republican majority leader in the House, is considering retiring at the end of his term, sources told CNN, a prospect that already has would-be successors eyeing the powerful post.

Armey told reporters Tuesday in his weekly briefing that he would make a speech on the House floor at 10 a.m. Wednesday. He refused to disclose what that address might be about.

"I know that there are some rumors going on regarding me and I flatter myself by the belief that you may be interested," Armey told reporters. "I will talk about that tomorrow. And I actually am not going to talk about it today."

"My daddy told me that the way you keep a turkey in suspense is," Armey said, pausing before concluding, "I'll tell you tomorrow."

While Armey, a Texan, has not officially announced his plans, that hasn't stopped lawmakers and aides from speculating about who might replace him as the number two Republican in the House.

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, a fellow Texan, would run for the post if Armey announces his retirement, according to an associate of DeLay.

"We fully expect to run an aggressive race for majority leader," the associate said.

The source also said that Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the deputy majority whip in the House, would run for DeLay's current position as whip.

Republican aides said other possible contenders for the majority leader's job were waiting to hear officially that Armey would step down before announcing any intentions of running.

If Armey, 61, decides to retire, he would leave at the end of his term in 2002, after serving nine terms in the House, sources said..

A source close to Armey said, "now could be a good time to leave."

"Dick Armey was been instrumental in bringing the first Republican majority in 40 years," the source said, noting Armey's work on the Contract for America, which helped sweep Republicans to power in Congress in 1994. "Gingrich was the architect, but Armey was the builder."

Newt Gingrich was Speaker of the House from early 1995 - 1998, and was credited for having made the so-called Republican revolution happen.

"If he decides to do this, it would be a good time. We are going into a fifth Republican cycle, hopefully. The House Republican leadership has proven effective, and the president is a Republican," said the source.

Friends and advisers have tried to talk Armey out of stepping down. "It's his inclination (to leave) or he wouldn't be talking about it," said the source.

Armey is undecided about the future, but has learned "you can affect public policy without holding public office."

"You can be like Wayne Gretsky or Michael Jordan -- you can go out on top," the source said.

The filing deadline for congressional races in Texas is Jan. 2.


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