The Illinois Republican would have to give up the gavel at the end of the current Congress even if he did not retire. The rumor he might leave sooner, perhaps to become U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, has some committee members lining up to replace him.
U.S. Reps. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., have been aggressively courting higher-ups and campaigning, The Hill said Thursday. Burton has "been meeting with leadership and discussing a run in the past few weeks," an unnamed GOP aide said.
A spokesman for Iowa Republican Jim Leach, the committee's next most senior Republican, discounts the imminent departure rumor. "As far as I know, this Congress runs for another year and a half," Gregory Wierzynski said. "There's no indication Henry Hyde is about to give up the gavel" before the 109th Congress concludes.
Leach was passed over in 2001 in favor of Hyde but is a leading contender for chairman next time. A spokesman for House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., would not comment on Hastert's plans for the chairmanship or on conversations that may have taken place with would-be chairmen.