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Rep. Robert T. Matsui Obituary

BETHESDA, Md. (AP) - Democratic Rep. Robert T. Matsui of California, who spent time in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans as an infant during World War II and went on to serve 26 years in Congress, has died of complications from a rare disease, his family said Sunday.

Matsui, 63, died Saturday night at the National Naval Medical Center in this Washington suburb.

Matsui juggled political and policy roles during more than a quarter-century in Congress. He was the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for the past two years, in charge of the unsuccessful effort to regain control of the House.

He also was the third-ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, where he was his party's point man on Social Security legislation.

In a statement announcing Matsui's death, his office disclosed that the congressman was diagnosed several months ago with Milo Dysplastic Disorder, a rare stem cell disorder that reduces the body's ability to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Victims of the disease are left more susceptible to other illnesses, with less ability to fight them off.

The statement said Matsui entered the hospital on Dec. 24 with pneumonia.

Matsui was recently re-elected with ease to his 14th term in Congress. His death will trigger a special election for a new representative in his Sacramento-area district.

Matsui was born in 1941. The following year, his family was among the Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II. Decades later, he helped pass legislation which apologized for the internment policy and provided compensation for the survivors.

Matsui won his seat in Congress in 1978. He generally supported Democratic legislation, but his support for global trade legislation put him at odds with members of his party on some high-profile measures.

As senior Democrat on the subcommittee on Social Security, Matsui gave every impression during the final few weeks of his life of being eager to lead the opposition to President Bush's plans to establish personal retirement accounts as part of a general overhaul of the program.

"With the passing of Bob Matsui, our country has lost a great leader and America's seniors have lost their best friend in Congress," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Californian, said in a statement.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press

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Published in The Washington Post on January 5, 2005
MATSUI, THE HONORABLE ROBERT TAKEO United States Representative (D-CA) On January 1, 2005, U.S. Congressman ROBERT TAKEO MATSUI of Sacramento, CA. Beloved husband of Doris Okada Matsui. Also... Read Obituary

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