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Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the longest-serving current member of the House, announced that he is retiring, effective Tuesday, according to his spokeswoman. He faces allegations of sexual harassment and groping from multiple women and has adamantly denied those charges.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee, read a letter from Conyers on the House floor Tuesday afternoon. Lee said the 53-year congressman “offered his retirement immediately” and notified the required officials under House guidelines: House Speaker Paul Ryan, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.
Here is Conyers’ letter as read by Lee:
“I came to Congress in 1964. Since then I have devoted my entire career to improving the lives of my constituents in Detroit on the behalf of justice everywhere.
“These years witness a profound evolution in civil rights led by millions in the street who fought for justice and people of conscience in the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans who heard them and enacted the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and other landmark reforms.
“I’ve been in the forefront of the civil rights movement. I’ve been a champion of justice for the oppressed and the disenfranchised. I never wavered in my commitment to justice and democracy. I am proud to have been part of that rich history. I have been privileged to be a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and to represent the United States Congress by being dean.
“I passed, as indicated, the law dealing with the Martin Luther King holiday, the Violence Against Women Act, the Hate Crimes Act, the U.S.A. Freedom and the extension of the Voting Rights Act. I have led the fight against mandatory minimums, hoping to reverse the devastating incarceration rates for African-Americans and poor people. I have tried to pass a universal health care law, H.R. 676.
“Every Congress since 1989, I have introduced H.R. 40 to study reparations for slavery and I deeply appreciate those handful of courageous colleagues who have joined me.
“For Detroiters, I’m proud that we have been able to accomplish, to bring hundreds of millions of dollars in critical grants and federal funding for Southeast Michigan to revitalize our great city, attract rich talent and return to us prosperity.
“I recognize that in this present environment, due process will not be afforded to me. I was taught by my great woman, my mother, to honor women. The first employee I ever hired was Mrs. Rosa Parks, who worked in my office for 22 years. It has been my great honor to work alongside some of the most talented and honorable staff on Capitol Hill and in Detroit. I have stated my position on these allegations. I have worked with both women and men.
“Given the totality of the circumstance of not being afforded the right of due process, in conjunction with current health conditions and to preserve my legacy and good name, I am retiring.
“I hope that my retirement will be viewed in the larger perspective of my record of service as I enter a new chapter. I pledge to continue my commitment to a progressive vision and a better future for this country that I love. I owe that to the legacy of my father, John Conyers Sr., who integrated labor unions in this country; to my brother Nathan, who integrated business and he is my main man; and to my wife Monica and to my sons John III, who I believe offers hope to this generation of leadership and who is committed to being an advocate of fairness and justice for all, and Carl Edward, who never leaves my side.
“I cannot allow the great work of this body to be distracted from their important work or the goals of the Democratic Party to be distracted.
“It has been an honor and a privilege of my life to represent the people of Michigan in the House of Representatives, but that responsibility will now fall to my colleagues and my successor. They have my deepest support and prayers.
“Jobs, justice and peace.”
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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