Thomas Foley, 84; was House speaker
His wife, Heather Foley, confirmed the death and said the cause was complications from strokes. The Washington state congressman had been ailing from conditions including aspirational pneumonia and Bell's palsy, a nerve disorder.
Mr. Foley was one of Capitol Hill's most outspoken critics of the extreme partisanship that emerged toward the end of his career.
He was elected to the House in 1964 and served for 30 of the 40 consecutive years that his party controlled the chamber. Mr. Foley established himself from the outset as a conciliatory figure; one of his first acts after his election victory was to host a reception for the Republican incumbent he defeated.
He was a burly man with a commanding physical presence, but especially as speaker he did not seem to relish power. "There is a degree to which you can sort of push, encourage, support, direct," he once told the New York Times. "But the Speakership isn't a dictatorship."
That outlook separated him from Thomas "Tip" O'Neill Jr., the powerful, back-slapping Massachusetts liberal who presided over the House in the late 1970s and through most of the 1980s, and from Jim Wright, the Texas Democrat who succeeded O'Neill and was criticized for heavy-handedness.
By the later years of the Democratic majority, the party was increasingly perceived to have grown arrogant with power. Then Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the future speaker of the GOP-controlled House, seized on the resentment to launch what became known as the Republican revolution.
One of his chief tools of political warfare - later wielded against him - was the ethics inquiry. His most prominent target was Wright, who resigned from Congress in 1989 amid a polarizing investigation into his book sales and personal business dealings.
Mr. Foley, then majority leader, succeeded Wright as speaker.
Mr. Foley's speakership began with what was roundly described as an episode of unscrupulous partisanship.
At the time of his selection, the Republic National Committee released a memo titled "Tom Foley: Out of the Liberal Closet." In what was described as an effort to cast doubt on Mr. Foley's reputation as a moderate, the memo compared his voting record to that of Rep. Barney Frank (D., Mass.), a liberal legislator who was openly gay. Legislators on both sides of the aisle condemned the memo and its innuendo.
Despite the ongoing infighting, the House achieved a number of legislative milestones during Mr. Foley's speakership, which spanned 51/2 years, from the early months of the George H.W. Bush administration through the first half of Clinton's first term.
During the Bush years, Mr. Foley presided over the House during the passage of a landmark update to the Clean Air Act, expansions of the Head Start and Medicaid programs, the Americans with Disabilities Act and, most notably, the massive 1990 budget deal that established "pay-as-you-go" practices. That legislation forced Bush to break his "no new taxes" promise.
In 1997, Clinton selected Mr. Foley as U.S. ambassador to Japan, a post he held until 2001. In recent years, he lived largely out of the public spotlight in his home in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.