(1st Add: Includes comments by House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.).)
(CNSNews.com) - While most Democrats Wednesday refused to comment on the impending retirement of House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-Texas), the top Democrat in the House did step forward to call Armey a "worthy adversary" and praise him for his "commitment to freedom and liberty."
House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) said he had a "mutual respect" for Armey despite their policy differences.
"[Armey] has stood strong for America since Sept. 11th, and we have worked well together on behalf of the American people in response to the attacks," said Gephardt.
"I admire Dick's commitment to freedom and liberty and believe he has led his party well," Gephardt said. "Dick Armey has made a significant contribution to our country in the past two decades. I applaud his extraordinary service and wish him the best."
Armey announced earlier Wednesday that this, his 9th term in the House, would be his last.
President Bush, a fellow Texan, said he was sure Armey's "dedication to public service will remain strong, even during his retirement." The president said Armey's "sense of humor, candor, and leadership will be sorely missed in Congress."
In responding to the loss of his top lieutenant, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) said, "Dick Armey is not a natural politician, but he is a natural leader. He came to the Congress with the idea that this institution could work better for the American people. He will leave at the end of his term with the knowledge that he has made this Congress a better place."
Sen. Phil Gramm (R-Texas), who is also planning to retire at the end of his current term, said Armey's "absence from the great national debate will be mourned by those of us who believe in less government and more freedom.''
According to Paul Beckner, president of Citizens for a Sound Economy, "Dick Armey has been a true and consistent champion of freedom."
"What I have admired most throughout Dick Armey's political career is how consistently he fought for his ideas. He never accepted that it was enough just to be right. If he wanted a majority of his colleagues to agree with him, he worked tirelessly to convince them, rather than just get frustrated with the process. He would also go to great lengths to convince them," Beckner said.
House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (R-Okla.) praised Armey as a "movement leader."
"As a result of his hard work and leadership, a lot of the majority leader's initiatives have come to fruition," Watts said. "Those gray hairs on Dick's head - that's wisdom."
He also said Armey is "a master of managing and moving legislation."
"He has worked to make sure the trains run on time and ensure the cargo benefits Americans across the country," Watts added. "Nice goes a long way with me. Dick Armey is a genuinely nice guy."
There is speculation in Texas that Scott Armey will try to win the 26th district seat his father is vacating. The filing deadline is Jan. 2nd. Armey's congressional district is in the northern part of Texas and borders Dallas-Fort Worth. He was first elected to the House in 1984. He became part of the House Republican leadership in 1993 and majority leader in 1995.
See Earlier Story:
Armey Retiring: 'Time to Stand Down' (November 12, 2001)