John Dingell to Retire After Nearly 60 Years in House

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from The New York Times,

Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan and the longest-serving member of Congress in history, announced on Monday that he would not seek re-election at the end of his current term.

Mr. Dingell’s retirement, first announced by Detroit newspapers and confirmed by Democratic leadership aides, will come at the end of this year — the end of his 29th full term — and represents the end of a historic tenure in the House that began in 1955. That year, Mr. Dingell, at the age of 29, succeeded his father after he died.

Mr. Dingell, 87, who amassed considerable power as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, in June became the longest-serving member of Congress with 20,997 days as a representative. Until then, the record had been held by Senator Robert C. Byrd, Democrat of West Virginia. Mr. Dingell has served under 11 presidents.

In a statement released on Monday, Mr. Dingell said: “Around this time every two years, my wife, Deborah, and I confer on the question of whether I will seek re-election. 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.”

As he announced his retirement, Mr. Dingell talked about the failings of current lawmakers. “This Congress has been a great disappointment to everyone, members, media, citizens and our country,” he said. “Little has been done in this Congress, with 57 bills passed into law.”

He added, “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.”

Then he asked Americans to work together. “What unites us is far greater than what divides us,” he said. “No president should have to tell a Congress that if that august body cannot do its task he will do it by executive order.”

He had recently begun to bemoan the current culture of Congress — its members’ inability to work together and compromise — and in an interview with The Detroit News, he was even more pointed: “I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he told the newspaper. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

Mr. Dingell’s retirement is another in a list of liberals who have decided to retire. Earlier this year, Representatives George Miller and Henry A. Waxman, both of California, also announced their retirements.

He also became well known for his support of progressive causes. He voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act — a vote he considers his most important — and presided over the passage of Medicare.

His wife of more than three decades, Deborah, is a power in her own right in Washington. She has served as an auto industry executive and is a close adviser to her husband. She recently considered, but ultimately decided against, a Senate bid. There is speculation that she might run for her husband’s seat.

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