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Hastert May Replace Livingston

House Republicans rallied behind Rep. Dennis Hastert of Illinois to be the new speaker, hours after Rep. Bob Livingston announced Saturday he would not serve as speaker following his admission of marital infidelity.

Majority Leader Dick Armey, Majority Whip Tom DeLay and outgoing Speaker Newt Gingrich all endorsed Hastert.

Rep. Christopher Cox of California, chairman of the House Republican policy committee, said initially he might run for the position but later decided against it. Rep. Steve Largent of Oklahoma was in the race briefly, but threw his support to Hastert.

No date has been set for the Republicans to formally choose Hastert, but leaders said the caucus was likely to meet Jan. 5.

Hastert, 56, a former wrestling coach and high school teacher in Yorkville, Ill., is a six-term House member now serving as the chief deputy whip. He was first elected in 1986 and is a member of the COmmerce Committee.

Hastert says he never sought to be House Speaker, but said in a statement it's his duty to serve if his colleagues choose him.

In a statement announcing his candidacy for the speaker's post, Hassert said, "If elected Speaker, I will make a particular effort to build bridges across the aisle, not just to pass legislation, but to ensure that common sense ideas and principles become law."

"There's no question that in a six seat majority our ability to work with all viewpoints and to listen to all members will be of the utmost importance. While at times we will disagree on certain issues, we must all remember that our foremost guiding principle is to do what's best for all Americans."

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