Congressman Don Young became Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives today, upon the announced resignation of Rep. John Conyers, D-Michigan, who had been the longest serving member.
Conyers had been pressured to resign for harassing women, including former staff aides. Conyers told a Detroit radio station that he “retiring today,” and is endorsing his son, John Conyers III, for his seat. Conyers was the first African-American Dean of the House, but only held the position for two years. Before him, it was Democrat John Dingell, also of Michigan.
The Dean of the House is largely honorary, and the primary duty is swearing the Speaker of the House.
Seniority often has other privileges, such as desirable office space and membership on important committees. But it’s hard to imagine Young giving up his current office, which is filled with Alaskana, memorabilia, and mounted heads of animal. His is the most iconic of any of the offices in the Rayburn Office Building.
Democrats have held the post for generations. The last Republican to be Dean of the House was Gilbert N. Haugen of Iowa, who left office in 1933.
It has been a big week for Rep. Young. On Monday, he was named to the powerful conference committee that will iron out the details on the tax reform bill that includes provisions for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas.
By 6:20 a.m. Alaska time, the Wikipedia entry on Dean of the House was already updated with Young’s name added to the list of Deans of the House throughout history.
Young issued the following statement:
“I have worked with Rep. Conyers on a wide variety of issues over the years and his service to the state of Michigan and this country will always be remembered. I wish him all the best. The Dean of the House is a respected position which carries a responsibility to uphold the traditions and institutional knowledge of this body. My time in the House has been marked by my work on behalf of Alaskans, lifelong friendships with my colleagues and my commitment to serve this nation. I am incredibly blessed to have the opportunity to step into this time honored role and I look forward to continuing to serve this body and the people of Alaska.”