Congressman Alcee Hastings, an outspoken and sometimes
controversial figure in Florida and Washington, has died after
battling pancreatic cancer. He was 84.
Hastings began his career as a civil rights lawyer. In 1979,
President Jimmy Carter appointed him to a U.S. District Court
seat, making him Florida's first African American federal judge.
Two years later, Hastings was indicted by a federal grand jury
and later convicted on conspiracy and obstruction of justice
charges for soliciting a bribe. While he was acquitted of the
charges in a second trial, in 1988 the House of Representatives
voted to impeach Hastings for his role in the bribery scandal.
He was convicted in the Senate and removed from the federal
In 1992, he ran and was elected to Congress. For nearly three
decades he represented communities in Miami-Dade, Broward and in
later years when his district was redrawn, Palm Beach County.
Hastings was Florida's longest-serving member of Congress. An
ardent Democrat, he was an outspoken critic of former President
Donald Trump and a champion of progressive causes.
Controversies surrounding Hastings continued after he entered
Congress. In 2017, Roll Call reported the Treasury Department
paid $220,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim brought by a
former congressional staffer. Hastings denied the charges and
said he was "outraged" at the settlement.
In 2019, the House Ethics Committee opened an investigation into
Hastings and his relationship with a staffer. House rules do not
allow members of Congress to be romantically involved with
staff, but spouses are allowed to work in their offices. The
committee's investigation ended after it was disclosed that
Hastings and the staffer had married.
Hastings announced he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in
2019, but continued to work until his death. News of his passing
brought condolences from Democratic and Republican colleagues
"Today, our Congressional community has been devastated by the
passing of a cherished colleague, the Dean of the Florida
Delegation: Congressman Alcee Hastings," said House Speaker
Nancy Pelosi in a statement. "Congressman Hastings was a beloved
son of Florida, a respected leader in our Democratic Caucus and
in the Congress. As an icon of the Congressional Black Caucus,
he was an historic force in our nation's politics. His passing
is a great loss for America."
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Democrat whose
district adjoined Hastings', said, "Florida has lost a
brilliant, fearless, giant-hearted advocate for this state that
he dearly loved, and Congress has lost a wise, patient and
compassionate statesman. I have lost a treasured friend and true
mentor, someone I constantly leaned on for sage counsel."
Republican Congressman Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who served with
Hastings on the House Rules Committee, called him a "good friend
and valued colleague." In a statement, he said, "He fought an
heroic battle against cancer with personal courage, good humor &
incredible dedication to his duties as a Member of Congress."
Hastings' death further narrows what is already a razor-thin
majority for Democrats in the House, bringing it to 218 to 211.
A special election in Hastings' reliably blue district will be
held to fill a seat that he won by 57 points in 2020.