John Dingell, Longest Serving Congresssman, RetiresBy: Brian Powell - February 24, 2014
United States Representative from Michigan John Dingell has announced his intention to retire from the House after nearly 60 years of service.
Dingell first came to the House in a special 1955 election following the death of his father. Over the past 59 years, Dingell has served with 11 presidents, ranging all the way from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Barack Obama. And as a congressional historian put it, during his service Dingell was one of the most influential and important Congressmen of all time: “There’s little doubt that John Dingell is one of the most consequential members of Congress in the last century. He’s been involved — and in a significant way — virtually every major social policy advance or chance in America since at least the 1960s.”
These policies include such pivotal issues as the passage of Medicare in 1965, the Endangered Species Act, the 1990 Clean Air Act, the Safe Water Drinking Act, the Affordable Care Act, and, his self-proclaimed most important legislation of all, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Aside from passing important environmental and social reform, Dingell also spent a large chunk of his time in the House presiding as chairman over the Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981-1995 and once again from 2006-2008. In the position, Dingell was one of the most powerful Congressmen in the world. When people would ask him what exactly he presided over as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell would simply point at a picture of the Earth from space which hung behind his desk.
Dingell used his powers as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee to fight against political corruption and fraud, investigating both the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration. Dingell also worked to dismantle the monopoly AT&T and the Bell System once held.
Despite all of these great achievements over the years, Dingell feels as if now is the time to retire:
“Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. My standards are high for this job. I put myself to the test and have always known that when the time came that I felt I could not live up to my own personal standard for a Member of Congress, it would be time to step aside for someone else to represent this district…. That time has come.”
At his advanced age of 88, one might think that Dingell simply is not in good enough health to continue the rigors of being a legislator. Dingell would be the first to say that that isn’t quite the reason: My doctor says I’m OK. And I’m still as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill. But I’m not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term… I find serving in the House to be obnoxious. It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
Dingell would not stop there, adding that “This Congress has been a great disappointment to everyone, members, media, citizens and our country. There will be much blaming and finger pointing back and forth, but the members share fault, much fault; the people share much fault, for encouraging a disregard of our country, our Congress, and our governmental system.”
While John Dingell may be stepping down, the state of Michigan and the House may still have a Dingell serving in the House regardless. As of now, the leading candidate to replace Mr. Dingell is his wife, Deborah Dingell. Mrs. Dingell has served as an executive with GM for many years and has toyed with the possibility of running for Congress before. This may present itself as the perfect opportunity to test her political prowess.
Now, if only Dingell could convince Mitch McConnell that it is time he considers hanging up the hat as well…
Image via Facebook