February 24, 2014, 09:19 am
Rep. John Dingell calls it quits
By Cameron Joseph
Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), the longest-serving House member in history, will retire at the end of his term, he told the Detriot News in an interview.
"I'm not going to be carried out feet first," Dingell told the paper. "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."
Dingell, 88, has been in Congress since 1955 and is the longest-serving member in congressional history.
The former chairman of the powerful House Energy & Commerce committee cited both health concerns and a frustration with Congress in his decision to retire.
"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," he said.
"I find serving in the House to be obnoxious," he continued. "It's become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets."
The longtime congressman, known for his forceful personality, has for decades been a fierce ally of Michigan's auto industry. He has often worked across the aisle with Republicans on legislation, creating friction with liberal House Democrats on environmental issues.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supported another House member, the more liberal Rep. Lynn Rivers (D), when Rivers and Dingell were forced into a primary against one another more than a decade ago.
Although Dingell won that race, he was forced out of the top position on the House Energy & Commerce Committee by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) a few years later. He served as chairman of the committee from 1981-1995 and again from 2007-2009.
DIngell played a key role in helping to create Medicare in the 1960s. In 1990, after a decade of disagreement, he and Waxman compromised to craft an update to the Clean Air Act. He also played a role in helping convince more conservative Democrats to support the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010.
When Waxman announced his decision to retire earlier this year, Dingell considered another push to be the Energy and Commerce committee's ranking member. But he faced a challenge in convincing Democratic members that he and not a younger, more liberal member should hold the slot.
Dingell became the longest-serving member in Congressional history in June 2013, passing former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) for the title.
He is just one of two World War II veterans still serving in Congress, alongside Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), Congress's oldest member. Dingell's father also served in the House, holding the seat from 1933-1955. The younger Dingell has been in Congress for more than a quarter of the time the House has existed.
It is widely expected that Dingell's wife, Democratic National Committee member and former General Motors executive Debbie Dingell, will run for his seat. Debbie Dingell mulled a run for Michigan's open Senate seat earlier this year before deciding not to run. Dingell's congressional seat is safely Democratic.