Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Thomas Stephen Foley (born March 26, 1929, in Spokane, Washington) is an American politician of the Democratic party, having served as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and ambassador to Japan.
In 1946, Foley graduated from Gonzaga High School in Spokane. He went on to attend the University of Washington (Seattle, Washington), which awarded him an artium baccalaureus degree in 1951. In 1957, he earned a law degree from the same university.
Following law school, Foley entered private practice. In 1958, he began working in the Spokane County prosecutor's office as a deputy prosecuting attorney. Foley taught at Gonzaga University Law School (Spokane, Wash.) from 1958 to 1959. In 1960, he joined the office of the State of Washington attorney general.
In 1961, Foley made the move to Washington, D.C., when he joined the staff of the U.S. Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs as assistant chief clerk and special counsel, in which capacity he served until 1963.
In 1964, Foley ran for U.S. representative from Washington's fifth congressional district. He won that race and began serving in the House in 1965 (89th Congress). He was re-elected in 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1990, and 1992.
In 1981, Foley was chosen majority whip by the House Democratic caucus and served in that capacity until 1986, when he moved up to the position of majority leader. In 1989, Foley succeeded Jim Wright as speaker of the House.
During his time in the House, Foley repeatedly opposed efforts to impose term limits on Washington state's elected officials, winning the support of the state's voters to reject term limits in a 1991 referendum. However, in 1992, a term limit ballot initiative was approved by the state's voters.
Foley brought suit, challenging the constitutionality of a state law setting eligibility requirements on federal offices. Foley won his suit, with federal courts declaring that states did not have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to limit the terms of federal officeholders.
However, in Foley's bid for a 16th term in the House, his opponent, George Nethercutt used the issue against him, repeatedly citing the caption of the federal case brought by Foley, "Foley against the People of the State of Washington." Nethercutt vowed that if elected, he would not serve more than three terms in the House. Foley lost in a narrow race that coincided with the Republican triumph of 1994. Foley became the first sitting speaker of the House to lose his bid for re-election since William Pennington (Whig-N.J.) in 1860. He is now commonly viewed as political casualty of the term limits controversy of the early 1990s.
(Term-limits supporter Nethercutt was re-elected in 1996 and 1998. Despite his pledge, he ran again in 2000 and 2002. In 2004, he decided not to run for a sixth term, instead announcing his candidacy for the U.S. Senate and eventually losing to incumbent Democratic Senator Patty Murray.)
In 1997, Foley was appointed ambassador to Japan by President Bill Clinton, in which capacity he served until 2001.
Foley was a Washington delegate to the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
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