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Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to wrap up term as foreign affairs committee chair due to House limits

Top Republicans in Congress on Tuesday recommended a new chairman for the Foreign Affairs Committee, a position to be vacated by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen due to GOP term limits in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, served two years as chairwoman of the powerful committee, and four years as the ranking GOP member -- the maximum six years party rules allow members to remain in committee leadership positions. 

She backed the new chairman, Rep. Ed Royce of California, and told The Miami Herald on Tuesday night that she cherishes the time she had atop the committee.

"It's been a great privilege and a great honor," she said, declaring herself "very happy" about Royce's appointment.

As chairwoman, Ros-Lehtinen has held perhaps the most visible House leadership position among South Florida Republicans. Ros-Lehtinen, who is Cuban-American, has been particularly outspoken on matters regarding Cuba and Latin America, and she has criticized the Obama administration on its policies in the Middle East.

"What a thrill it has been for me to be both the top Republican in the minority, and the top Republican in the majority" at foreign affairs, she said. "It says a lot about the greatness of the country that a naturalized American could be chairing the Foreign Affairs Committee."

Ros-Lehtinen, who was first elected to Congress in 1989, said she looks forward to whatever role Royce gives her in the committee, be it heading a subcommittee or something else.

"Whatever role he sees for me, I will be pleased as punch," the characteristically cheerful Ros-Lehtinen said. "We want to give the new folks, the new kids on the block, a shot at leadership."

She added: "I didn't come to Congress to chair a committee, or for power or prestige. I came to represent my community ... I love this job."

The headline to this post has been changed to more accurately reflect that the congresswoman is only leaving her post due to term limits.