U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, congressman for our area since 1993, was scheduled to announce his retirement Thursday, January 19 at 1 p.m. at the same place he launched his first House bid 20 years ago — the Senate House in Uptown Kingston. He’ll serve the remainder of his term.

Shortly after the blog Politico on Wednesday cited “Democratic insiders” as saying Hinchey, who has been battling colon cancer and has undergone three operations for it in recent months, his office sent out a statement that Hinchey would himself announce his retirement at the 1 p.m. Thursday, January 19 press conference.

“While it is incredibly hard to leave a job I truly love, I know in my heart of hearts that now is the right time for me to move on,” Hinchey’s statement read. “I want to thank the people of New York’s 22nd District and the people of the former 26th District who put their trust in me to be their congressman. I am forever grateful for their support over the years. They afforded me the opportunity of a lifetime. Every day I’ve spent in Congress was a day I spent fighting for those who I represent. The people from the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Southern Tier and the Finger Lakes were always, and continue to be, at the front of my mind and the focus of everything I do as their congressman.”

Hinchey, who lives in Hurley and grew up in Saugerties, was elected to the House in 1992, succeeding Ithaca’s Matthew McHugh. Prior to that, he served in the New York State Assembly since 1974.

He is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which allocates funds in the federal budget. On that panel, he serves on the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies and the Subcommittee on Defense and previously served on the Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. He is also a member of the Joint Economic Committee. Earlier in his congressional career, Hinchey served on the House Committee on Financial Services and the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Upon graduating from Saugerties high school, Hinchey enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific on the destroyer U.S.S. Marshall. After receiving an honorable discharge, he worked for two years as a laborer in a Hudson Valley cement plant. He then enrolled in the State University of New York at New Paltz and put himself through college working as a night-shift toll collector on the New York State Thruway. He went on to earn a master’s degree at SUNY New Paltz and did advanced graduate work in public administration and economics at the State University of New York at Albany.

A staunch liberal who often engaged in spirited battle with television pundits Bill O’Reilly and others on Fox News, Hinchey was one of the first and most outspoken members of Congress to oppose President Bush’s effort to invade Iraq. He subsequently became a forceful critic of ongoing operations within Iraq and led the call for the removal of U.S. forces, which has now occurred.

In 2005, Hinchey was one of the strongest opponents of President Bush’s efforts to partially privatize Social Security. He also opposed the Medicare Prescription Drug bill, which prohibited Medicare from negotiating the price of prescription drugs and as a result.

In 2009, Hinchey authored the appropriations language that initiated the EPA’s current national study on hydraulic fracturing. According to his office, this is the first comprehensive and independent analysis of the risks that hydraulic fracturing poses to drinking water.

“Maurice Hinchey has been an extraordinary and iconic representative for the people of Ulster County. His long record of accomplish and passion are an inspiration to all public servants,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “He is both a mentor and friend.”

UPDATE: Hinchey’s press conference is currently ongoing. Check the print edition for further details.