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Kaptur is longest-serving woman in House history

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) — Representative Marcy Kaptur is now the longest-serving woman in the history of the House of Representatives, breaking the record Sunday –- 12,858 days after she first took office in 1983.

Kaptur told ABC News that as she surpasses the milestone, previously held by Massachusetts Republican Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers, she is “a citizen with deep gratitude and very energized to keep going and to keep working.”

“This record really belongs to my constituents and the people of Ohio, and ultimately to the country,” Kaptur, a Democrat, said. “The time has gone very quickly.”

She remarked that while only 288 women have ever served in the House of Representatives — out of more than 10,000 members in the history of the lower chamber — “we’re making progress.”

“I’m just very grateful to be able to celebrate the fact that so many women have been able to serve in the Congress,” she said, citing a sea change after the 1980 election. “But we have a long way to go.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi paid tribute to Kaptur on the House floor in anticipation of the record.

“This is truly a milestone,” Ryan, R-Wis., said. “Marcy, the lawmaker that you are surpassing, Edith Nourse Rogers, famously summed up her time in office by saying this: ‘The first 30 years is the hardest. You start it and you just like the work and you just keep on.’ Marcy, you have certainly kept on.”
Rogers served from 1925 until her death in 1960.

Pelosi called Kaptur an “unwavering voice for the American heartland.”

“It’s really important to know the impact that Marcy has had on all of us,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said. “She’s 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.”

Kaptur is the second longest-serving current House Democrat (Steny Hoyer), and 6th most-senior member in the lower chamber.

While Kaptur was the driving force behind passage of legislation authorizing the World War II Memorial on the National Mall, the 18-term Democrat admits her proudest moments haven’t always resulted in the president’s signature on a bill she had sponsored.

“Some have been defeats,” she admitted, pointing at her opposition to NAFTA in the 1990s and the Wall Street bailout in 2008. “My biggest fights I haven’t always won, but I think I’ve been a voice for the American people. I think I’ve been a voice for economic justice here.”

She says “only God knows” how long she’ll serve, though it’s not her intent to chase after Sen. Barbara Mikulski’s record for longest-serving woman in congressional history. Mikulski served a combined 40 years in the House (10) and Senate (30).

“I’ve been a part of the flow of American history and I believe that the votes that I’ve cast have made a difference,” Kaptur observed. “You do what you can while you’re here. I’m very grateful for every day you’re able to make a difference in the lives of the American people.”

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