Ohio lawmaker reaches milestone as longest-serving congresswoman

U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo.
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U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo.

Before a packed U.S. House chamber where members roared in approval, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California Wednesday hailed Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, for becoming the longest serving woman member in the history of the House.

Calling Kaptur “a constant unwavering voice for the American heartland,” Pelosi described her as “a person of the greatest integrity; sincerity. She knows her purpose, she knows her subjects, her judgment is respected and she always has a plan.”

“As I’ve said so many times, if you want to save yourself some time, just do what Marcy asks you to do the first time around,” said Pelosi, a Democrat.

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Pelosi was followed to the floor by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who said, “I rise to whole heartedly agree with the Democratic leader.” Ryan then provoked laughter when he quipped, “I’m not sure I’ve ever said that before.”

It was a rare moment of bipartisan tranquility in the normally turbulent House as lawmakers from both parties stood and applauded.

But Kaptur, whose district stretches from Toledo to the west side of Cleveland, has made friends in both political parties, in part because she serves on the powerful appropriations committee, where members work in a bipartisan manner and have a great say over financing projects in their districts.

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Kaptur, who has served in the U.S. House since 1983, is a champion of the blue-collar workers who live in her district. She has been an ardent opponent of such trade pacts as the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, arguing those deals lead to heavy manufacturing job loss.

She was a champion of building the World War II Memorial, which opened in 2004. Looking at Kaptur, Ryan said she got the idea in 1987 “in an exchange that you had with a veteran in a fish fry back in Jerusalem Township in your district. It took six years to get a bill into law and then another 11 years to get the memorial built.”

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Prior to today, the late Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, held the record as the longest serving woman — from 1925 to her death in 1960. Kaptur has now served one day longer than Rogers.