U.S. Congressman George Miller, a senior Democrat from California who has long championed education system, labor, health and the protection of natural resources, announced on Monday that he will not seek a 21st term in the House this fall.
“This is a great institution and I cannot thank my family and my constituents enough for having given me the honor and privilege of representing my district in Congress these past 40 years,” the 68-year-old Miller said on his website. ““I will leave Congress with a full heart and a crowded plate, because the challenges of our times demand our constant involvement. We’ve made progress on many fronts but have a lot of work still to do."
Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, jumped in, telling the Sacramento Bee that he wants to fill the void in the 11th Congressional District.
"I'm playing phone tag with him right now. George is a really good friend," DeSaulnier told the Bee. "I wish him well and I would love to replace him in Congress. "It was always my intention to run."
Whoever replaces Miller will have big shoes to fill.
Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi quickly issued a statement of her own: "For 40 years in the House, George Miller has been the model of the serious, substantive and successful legislator. In the majority, as chairman of three committees, and in the minority as well, he has written some of the most creative legislation of our time...Now the Dean of California's congressional delegation, George has always drawn a special inspiration from the creativity and innovativeness that is so crucial to our home state."
Miller, who represents Contra Costa County, was first elected in 1974 at age 29 as the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal were coming to a close, he collaborated on writing major laws over the years with other congressional leaders as divergent as the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy and Republican Speaker John Boehner. A longtime supporter and advisor to Democratic Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he currently serves as the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and is the fifth most senior member of the House of Representatives.
His living arrangements in Capitol Hill - bunking with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer - inspired Amazon's first original series "Alpha House," a political comedy written by Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau and which stars John Goodman.
One of his most lasting legacies will certainly be being part of the 2010 Affordable Healthcare Act, known as Obamacare.
Miller was born in Richmond, Calif., and lives in Martinez, Calif. He is among the 50th consecutive longest serving members of Congress in history, out of more than 10,000 members. Miller’s father, George Miller Jr., was a powerful Democratic state senator from Contra Costa County from 1949 until his death at age 55 on Jan. 1, 1969.
MIller is just one of t two remaining members of the House elected as part of the historic “Watergate Class” of 1974, who began his congressional career under the tutelage of the legendary Democratic congressional leader Rep. Phil Burton of San Francisco. Miller said Burton taught him the key to political success was to get on a committee and stay there if he wanted to rise in seniority to become a chairman.
Until he steps down, Miller said there is still some more work he can get done including extending long-term unemployment insurance benefits and raising the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour by 2016.
"Now, I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me," Miller said in a statement. "What a wonderful experience this has been.”