CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller announced Friday he will not seek a sixth term, throwing the Democrat's long-held seat in jeopardy in 2014.
Rockefeller was a state legislator, secretary of state and governor before he became a U.S. senator. He said the peak moment of his career may have been threatening to keep the Senate in session over Christmas break if they didn't pass the 1992 Coal Act. He also co-sponsored legislation creating the state-level Children's Health Insurance Program, and helped persuade the Veterans Affairs Department to revisit disability claims arising from what has become known as "Gulf War Illness."
Here is reaction to Rockefeller's retirement:
— "Jay Rockefeller first arrived in West Virginia as a young volunteer, eager to improve the lives of working families. And for more than four decades, he has continued to fight tirelessly on their behalf," President Barack Obama said. "Michelle and I join the people of West Virginia in thanking Senator Rockefeller for a lifetime of service, and I look forward to continuing to work with him over the next two years."
— "He told us, 'My name is Rockefeller, but that will not pay our bills,'" U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., recalled Rockefeller saying at his first gubernatorial inauguration. "He gave us more than his family name. He pledged his heart, mind and strength to us that day. For almost half a century, Sen. Rockefeller's service to his state and its families has never wavered from that commitment."
— "Sen. Rockefeller has been one of the best friends our union has ever had," United Mine Workers of America International President Cecil E. Roberts said. "In every struggle — whether promoting mine safety, ensuring continued support for our retirees' health care and pensions through the Coal Act or fighting for workplace justice, he has been a constant and untiring friend to coal miners and all working people."
— "Clearly West Virginia will reflect back on it and be proud of his service here and all of the positions that he's held," said West Virginia Coal Association President Bill Raney, whose group has been critical of Rockefeller. "There's been a wide disparity of opinion about some of the issues, but this isn't a time to reflect on those. I think the time is (for) everybody be positive and complimentary as we go forward and just remember all the good things that he has done."
— "The nation and West Virginia are better places today thanks to Jay's distinguished and selfless public service," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said. "Jay was a tireless and successful advocate for our nation's children, and he was a leader in expanding their access to health care. Millions of families today are better off because of Jay's tireless work on programs such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid."
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