Michigan's Dingell, Longest-Serving U.S. Lawmaker, To Retire

by
Reuters
Michigan Democrat John Dingell, a gruff legislator who has served longer in the U.S. Congress than any other person in history, will retire from the House of Representatives after this year, a senior House Democratic aide said on Monday.

Michigan Democrat John Dingell, a gruff legislator who has served longer in the U.S. Congress than any other person in history, will retire from the House of Representatives after this year, a senior House Democratic aide said on Monday.

"I'm not going to be carried out feet first," Dingell, 87, told the Detroit News. "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."

Once a tall, imposing figure who came to Congress in 1955, Dingell in recent years has had to navigate Capitol Hill in a motorized scooter with a vanity plate that reads "THE DEAN."

Before earning that title, Dingell was sometimes known as "the truck" as he used his Energy and Commerce Committee chairmanship spanning 16 years to push major legislation ranging from the breakup of AT&T and cable deregulation to the Endangered Species Act and Clean Air Act.

Healthcare was another signature issue for Dingell, playing a role in the 1965 passage of Medicare and enactment of President Barack Obama's 2010 landmark Affordable Care Act, now known as "Obamacare."

He sometimes found himself on the losing end of legislative fights, notably the 1993 approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Dingell will formally announce his plan to leave Congress later on Monday at a luncheon in metropolitan Detroit, according to the Detroit News.

The newspaper also reported that Dingell's wife, Debbie, a Democratic Party activist with deep ties to the General Motors Company, might run for the congressional seat in November's elections.

If she were to run and win, Michigan voters would continue an unbroken line of Dingells serving in Congress that began in 1933 when John Dingell Sr., was first elected to the House and was replaced by his son 58 years ago.

Democrats believe they will easily hold onto this seat in November's election. The racially-mixed congressional district, which includes the auto manufacturing center of Dearborn outside of Detroit, voted overwhelmingly for Obama in his successful 2012 re-election.

A spokesman for Dingell could not be immediately reached to comment on the reports. A senior House Democratic aide confirmed that Dingell intends to retire from Congress after this year.

Dingell is the latest in a string of senior Democrats to leave Congress this year, including Senator John Rockefeller of West Virginia and Representative Henry Waxman of California.

Dingell also expressed disappointment with Congress.

"I find serving in the House to be obnoxious," he told the Detroit News. "It's become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets."