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US Rep. Tom Lantos dies at age 80

Tom Lantos was the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in US Congress. His spokeswoman says he died early Monday morning.

Lynne Weill said that Lantos, 80, passed away at the Bethesda Naval MedicalCenter in suburban Maryland. Lantos announced last month that he had been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. “Routine medical tests have revealed that I have cancer of the esophagus,” he said in the prepared statement. “In view of this development and the treatment it will require, I will not seek re-election.” Lantos, 80, was elected to Congress in 1980 and is in his 14th term in office. He was a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Lantos, D-Calif., the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

As the only Holocaust survivor ever elected to Congress, Lantos is the founding co-chairman of the 24-year-old Congressional Human Rights Caucus. “Throughout my adult life I have sought to be a voice for human rights, civil liberties and social justice ... I will never be able to express fully my profoundly felt gratitude to this great country,” Lantos said of his time in Congress. Lantos was diagnosed with esophagus cancer in mid-December and is considering a variety of treatments including chemotherapy and radiation, according to his spokeswoman Lynne Weil. “Tom is taking these developments in stride,” Weil said. Lantos turned 80 on Feb. 1. He expected to serve until the end of his congressional year, which ends in December 2008.

Lantos is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has repeatedly called for reforms to the nation’s health-care system, reduction of the national budget deficit and the national debt, repeal of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001, and has opposed Social Security privatization efforts. He supports gay marriage rights and marijuana for medical use, is a strong proponent of gun control and is adamantly pro-choice. Lantos was born in Budapest, Hungary. In 1944, as a teenager, he was sent to a labor camp but eventually escaped. Three years later, he came to the United States on an academic scholarship. (knbc.com)