Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93

Former House GOP leader Bob Michel dies at 93
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Robert Michel, the former House Republican leader who helped push President Reagan’s agenda through Congress, died Friday at 93.

Michel first took office in 1957 and spent nearly four decades in the House, before being replaced as the House GOP leader by conservative firebrand Newt Gingrich (Ga.) in 1994. The Illinois congressman was known for his affinity for consensus-building, rather than obstructionism.

“There were some who thought he was too easy-going with his friends across the aisle, but no one accused him of being soft after the Invasion of Normandy,” former President George H.W. Bush, who served while Michel was House Republican leader, said in a statement.

“As I see it, Bob Michel was a great American for whom the words ‘duty' and ‘honor' and ‘country' weren’t just a campaign slogan, but a lifelong creed,” he continued.

Through bipartisan cooperation, especially with former Democratic House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill (Mass.), Michel helped steer Reagan’s agenda of cuts to taxes and social welfare programs through the House.

“Bob Michel was a gentleman and a statesman who served our nation with dignity, honesty, distinction and grace both in our armed forces and in public office,” former House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerGOP revolts multiply against retiring Ryan Can Jim Jordan become top House Republican? Tensions on immigration erupt in the House GOP MORE (R-Ohio) said in a statement.

“He was a man of great dignity and great character, and a great friend. Debbie and I offer our prayers and deepest sympathies to the Michel family and the people of his beloved Illinois."

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Michel joined the Army after the U.S. entered World War II, and went on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge and the Invasion of Normandy, two of the most consequential battles of the war in Europe. He was discharged in 1946, before attending Bradley University in Illinois.

His political career began in 1949 as an aide to Rep. Harold Velde (R-Ill.). When Velde announced that he would not seek reelection in 1956, Michel launched his congressional bid and won his former boss’s seat.

He first rose to the ranks of his party’s leadership in 1973, when President Nixon appointed him chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Two years later, Michel was elected House minority whip, and then minority leader in 1981. During his time in Congress, Michel fought against President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society reforms, yet consistently sought cooperation with the Democrats.

That sense of bipartisanship sometimes drew the ire of some in his own party, including Gingrich, who would go on to fuel a much more adversarial relationship between Republicans and Democrats.

After leaving Congress, Michel went to work at the Washington law firm Hogan & Hartson as a lobbyist.

Michel's wife, Corrine, passed away in 2003. Together, they had four children, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.