Washington — Amid discord in the ranks of House Democrats, longtime Rep. Sander Levin said Tuesday he won’t seek re-election as ranking member of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, encouraging the next generation of Democrats to take on the post.

Levin, who has served in Congress since 1983, announced his decision in a letter to his Democratic colleagues, referring to recent discussions over the future of the caucus by saying, “we have not faced such an ‘all hands on deck moment’ as we do right now.”

“Donald Trump as President changes virtually everything,” Levin wrote.

“I want to do my part to ensure that we are united in the efforts necessary to stop President Trump and Speaker Ryan as they seek to take this country in a very different direction and turn back the clock on progress we have made and had hoped to continue making.”

Levin, 85, stressed the “imperative” of supporting younger members as they take on greater leadership roles over the four years of the Trump administration. The Royal Oak Democrat said he wants to be free to focus, in addition to tax reform, on his legislative passions of health care and trade.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi heralded Levin’s accomplishments on the House committee.

“As chairman and as Ranking Member of Ways and Means, Sandy Levin has been a tireless champion for working families,” said Pelosi of California in a statement.

“The strength of his values and the power of his expertise are a great asset to Democrats on everything from health care to tax reform to trade. Congressman Levin was invaluable in preventing the privatization of Social Security and in helping to enact the landmark Affordable Care Act.”

Levin chaired Ways and Means in 2010 when Congress passed the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s health care law. He was chosen to be ranking member after the 2010 election.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to help preserve it, and there are now 20 million people counting on us to stop President Trump and the House Republicans from repealing it,” Levin wrote in his letter. “In addition, Medicare and Medicaid, which have been strengthened by ACA, are again under attack by Republicans who have repeatedly tried to turn them into vouchers or block grants.”

U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra of California quickly announced his candidacy for Ways and Means ranking member within an hour of the release of Levin’s letter.

In recent weeks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made changes to the leadership of the Democratic Caucus, including adding a member from the incoming class of freshman lawmakers. Younger and newer members have complained about the Democrats’ seniority system and their lack of influence in top decisions.

Pelosi faces a challenge from Ohio U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan. Levin supports Pelosi.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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