Rep. Bill Young, the longest-serving House Republican and one of Florida's most influential lawmakers, said he won't seek a 23rd term next year.
Young, 82, who announced his decision Wednesday in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, cited several factors for stepping down when his term ends in January 2015, including an ailing back, a desire to spend more time with his family and congressional gridlock.
"It's my time" to retire, said Young, who has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., since Friday, receiving treatment for his back.
Young, who has served the Saint Petersburg area since 1971, is a former chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. But he is best known on Capitol Hill as a stalwart advocate of the armed forces, serving for years on the panel's military and veterans subcommittee.
After talking with the Times, Young said he planned to call House Speaker John Boehner and give him the news.
The Florida Republican said he was "a little disappointed" with the increasingly partisan nature of Congress. But he added he values the friendships he has made in the House. "I love every one of these guys. They're doing what they think is right. That's what I did."
Boehner called Young "a tireless voice for our men and women in uniform and America’s national security, and a dear friend."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said he was "a true statesman whose wisdom, commitment and expertise will be sorely missed in Congress."
"Floridians owe Bill Young a debt of gratitude for his 53 years of service to our state and country," said Rubio, 40 years Young's junior.
Born in a small coal-mining town in western Pennsylvania, Young served in the Army National Guard before he was elected to the Florida state Senate in 1960.
He survived a small-airplane crash in 1970, but suffered a serious back injury as a result.
Yet despite persistent speculation in recent years that his failing health and advanced age would cause him to retire, Young easily has won re-election every term since 1972.