Young said he will serve out his term and vowed that "I’m going to do the best I can for the next year and three months."
What about his plans after Congress? "I guess I’ve got to get another job," he said with a chuckle. "I’ve served in the Congress but I’ve never made a lot of money. My financial situation isn’t much different than when I came to Congress."
Republican names previously mentioned for his seat include former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard and Pinellas County commissioners Karen Seel and John Morroni.Young’s son, Bill Young II, has been openly considering running for a St. Petersburg state House seat next year.
Young has served with eight U.S. presidents and has overseen the full House appropriations committee and its defense subcommittee. When Republicans reclaimed the House in 2010, Speaker Boehner granted him a waiver from term limits on leadership posts to control the committee again. He still holds the post.
Young’s health has been an issue and an open question in recent years, issues he attributes to a plane crash in 1970 when he was serving as a state senator.
Young was returning to Tallahassee from a fundraising dinner in St. Petersburg when the small plane he was in went down. Traveling with Young was Tom Slade, who would later lead the state Republican Party, and Slade’s wife of four months, Corkey.
A report in the Evening Independent put it this way:
"The night was foggy and overcast. Visibility was poor. Young sensed something was wrong. Then the plane plunged into a field of small oak trees, about three miles short of the airport but directly on the approach lane."
A fire broke out in the tail section and Slade kicked open the emergency door, jumping out with his wife. Young dove on top of them. The pilot followed.
Then the plane exploded.
Badly hurt, Young went to his vacation home in the hills of North Carolina to recover. He fashioned the cane out of the root of a dogwood tree. Young was elected to Congress that November (1970) and he later lent the cane to Gerald Ford, then a congressman from Michigan, who used it when he had a hip replacement.
"He was walking with a puny little cane and I said, ‘Jerry, use mine,’" Young recalled in a 2011 interview with the Times.
Young, who had taken to carrying the cane again, had long overdue back surgery in summer 2011 and was dropped on the hospital floor in a follow-up visit, extending his rehabilitation.
Young, a long and passionate advocate for the military, made national news a year ago this month when he came out against the war in Afghanistan. His change of heart was triggered by the death of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Matthew Sitton, who was killed with another paratrooper by an improved explosive device, or IED. The episode chilled Young because months earlier Sitton had emailed the lawmaker seeking help.
"As a brigade, we are averaging at a minimum an amputee a day from our soldiers because we are walking around aimlessly through grape rows and compounds that are littered with explosives," Sitton wrote. "The morale and alertness levels on our patrols are low and it is causing casualties left and right. … I am all for getting on the ground and fighting for my country when I know there is a desired end state and we have clear guidance of what needs to be done. But when we are told basically to just go walk around for a certain amount of time is not sitting well with me."
Young said he wants the troops to come home immediately, a dramatic departure not only from his past views but also from the views of most Republican leaders.
"I can’t find a whole lot right about what’s happening in Afghanistan," Young said during a 2012 congressional hearing in which he read Sitton’s email.
Young’s control of the congressional purse gave him influence with top military leaders and he was not afraid to use it — in ways large and small. Last year, Young and his wife Beverly took up the cause of a Marine Corps gunnery sergeant whose legs had been blown off by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan. The young man had been stationed in Okinawa before going to Afghanistan, and he was still being charged for his living quarters there as well as for temporary housing in Maryland.
"We raised a little bit of a fuss," Young told the Times at the time, smiling.