February 24th, 2014
10:06 AM ET
10 months ago

'Dean' of U.S. House to retire

Update 10:47 a.m. ET, 2/24/2014

(CNN) - John Dingell, the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, announced Monday that he'll retire at the end of the year rather than run for 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," said the 87-year-old Democratic congressman from Michigan, in a statement announcing his retirement.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press were first to report early Monday that Dingell would announce his retirement.  In an interview with the Detroit News Dingell said "I'm not going to be carried out feet first," adding that "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."

Dingell told the Detroit News that his health "is good enough that I could have done it again. My doctor says I'm OK. And I'm still as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill." But Dingell went on to say that "I'm not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term."

Dancing for Dingell: Congress celebrates an epic run

Dingell added that the increased partisanship in the halls of Congress have diminished his love of his job.

"This is not the Congress I know and love," said Dingell. "It's hard for me to accept, but it's time to cash it in."

In his official statement, Dingell made a pitch for bipartisanship, saying "let us work together. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. No President should have to tell a Congress that if that august body cannot do its task he will do it by executive order."

Word of the retirement announcement from Dingell, the "dean of the House" for nearly two decades, was confirmed to CNN by two Democratic sources with knowledge of the congressman's thinking.

Dingell has served in the House of Representatives for 58 years. He was 29 when he was first elected to Congress, in a special election to serve out the remainder of the term of his late father, who had held the seat since it was created in 1932.

Dingell, whose district is home to the Ford Motor Company, has long been a strong supporter of the auto industry, but he has also stressed environmental issues over the years. In his nearly six decades on Capitol Hill, Dingell's cast thousands of votes and played a key role in helping pass such signature pieces of legislation such as the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, and most recently in 2010, the Affordable Care Act, which is better known as Obamacare.

Dingell's news comes amid a slew of retirement announcements from many senior House and Senate members from both parties. Michigan is also losing longtime Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, who has served in the chamber for 35 years.

Michigan's 12th Congressional District includes several working class southern suburbs of Detroit known as the "Downriver" area. The district stretches west to include Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan.

Dingell grabbed 68% of the vote in his 2012 re-election. And Barack Obama won two-thirds of the vote in the district in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

There's speculation that Dingell's wife of 38 years, Debbie, a longtime Democratic National Committee member, may run for her husband's seat, and if she launches a bid, the move could discourage other Democrats from running.

CNN's Paul Steinhauser, Deirdre Walsh and Dana Bash contributed to this report


Filed under: 2014 • Congress • John Dingell
soundoff (216 Responses)
  1. Lynda/Minnesota

    "This is not the Congress I know and love," said Dingell. "It's hard for me to accept, but it's time to cash it in."

    On a side note: I agree with him. I suspect it is hard for the majority of working class Americans to accept this particular Congress as well. We've been stomped on, stepped on, pushed aside, and given the finger for far too long as it is.

    February 24, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. Name

    "I don't want people to say I stayed too long." – Ha ha ha ha. Good one! Oh, he was serious???

    February 24, 2014 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  3. smith

    Time for some term limits for reps. and sen.

    February 24, 2014 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. Wake up People!

    I remember meeting Congressman Dingell during my Senior year in High School. One of the requirements for our Govt class was to volunteer at a local campaign office. It wasn't his campaign office but he stopped in for a visit one day. He seemed like a genuinely nice man. That was a long time ago but I still remember it.

    February 24, 2014 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Tampa Tim

    The 10 most miserable states in the US in a Gallup Study. Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Arkansas, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia gets the top honor. I wonder if fossil fuels, unsafe drinking water,republican leadership in stat offices, or billionaires influence have anything to do with it.

    February 24, 2014 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. ManWiththe1000PoundBrain

    Just look at all the cry babies whining that he "already stayed too long." He served his country, represented his district and served with distinction. What is significant is that "Dingell added that the increased partisanship in the halls of Congress have diminished his love of his job. 'This is not the Congress I know and love,' said Dingell." The problem isn't that we need term limits or that he stayed too long; the problem is that he served for decades and NOW he sees just how extreme the GOP has become. The current extremest wing of the GOP is the problem.

    February 24, 2014 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. salty dog

    Right, because sixty years would be ridiculous, SMH.

    February 24, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  8. Iddiklu

    He is THE perfect example for what is wrong with our government. He should have retired from public 'service' (ha) 50 years ago.

    February 24, 2014 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  9. wendel

    when republicans don't have any good answers they just make nasty comments. Unfortunately that's how they run all their campaigns too. Mr. Dingell also said he is smart enough to run again.. Mr. Dingell you are a genius compared to the repo trolls in congress now. Thank you for your service. Sorry to see you go hope you do not get replaced by another idiot from the tea party . Vote all the repo clowns out.

    February 24, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @cmml: ""It's not the House I love." That's because for 43of his 58 years the Democrats controlled the house – now that he is in the minority he is learning that compromise is more painful when you don't have the power."

    All the GOP/tea bags are good for is going against the will of the people:

    – No to universal background checks (supported by a majority of Americans – including a majority of repubs).

    – No to increasing taxes on the rich (even though a majority of Americans – including a majority of American millionaires and billionaires wanted it).

    – Endless attempts to repeal Obamacare – even though a majority of Americans reelected President Obama, retained a Democratic majority in the Senate, and cast 1.4 million MORE votes for Democrats in the House than repubs.

    And the list goes on and on and on. No wonder Congress has a 13% approval rating (sinking ever since 2010): GOP/repubs are in the majority!

    February 24, 2014 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. billmelater1

    " adding that "I don't want people to say I stayed too long." Yea he stayed 54 years too long.

    February 24, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  12. S.B. Stein

    It seems that he has done his part for his district, state and country. He understands that he has limits and will not seek re-election. I hope that he enjoys retirement.

    February 24, 2014 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  13. ThinkAgain - If you want Congress to actually do something FOR the American people, vote OUT the repub/tea bag majority

    @Andrewr Friet: "58 years in Congress is far too long for anybody to be in office. This is exactly why we need term limits. We have to weed out the entrenched people in congress from both sides and get some fresh ideas in our legislature."

    We have term limits: It's called voting. And get Citizens United out of the way to get big money out of elections.

    FIFY

    February 24, 2014 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  14. EldRick

    58 years in the job? That's disgusting that he has fed at the public trough for his entire life. Long past time to clear out the ineffective.

    February 24, 2014 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  15. RB

    Come on, 58 years in Congress??? The founding fathers wanted people to serve in Congress for a few years and then go home and give another person a chance to serve. Now we have professional, full time, self serving politicians whose goal in life is to keep campaigning and stay in office. Dingell may have been a good guy but give someone else a chance. 58 years is a long time and it's hard to believe he's still current. We need term limits to keep out the dead wood who just keep hangin' on.

    February 24, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  16. The Fact of the Matter

    ""I don't want people to say I stayed too long." They said that 57 years ago.

    February 24, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. Misha Chevalier

    OMG!! THAT is what's wrong with Congress and the whole gov't system. PLACE TERM LIMITS!! Get these long termers out of there!! They say they're doing what the people who voted them in want (YES), except, it's at the expense of the tax payers and NOT really in the best interest....only THEIR INTERESTS!! Jeesh PEOPLE!! Wake up and smell the coffee!!! These gov't fat cats ARE NOT your friends!! THEY are only looking out for THEIR own interest....Its NO LONGER "Gov't of the people by the people".....it's GOV'T to the highest bidder!!

    February 24, 2014 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  18. oldbear60

    Now if the Congressman would take about 434 of his coworkers with him we could get a fresh start.

    February 24, 2014 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    "I'm not going to be carried out feet first," adding that "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."
    ----------------------
    This guy's hilarious. I'd carry him out on my shoulders.

    February 24, 2014 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Dennis

    You stayed to long 20 years ago. Term limits now, for a of Congress.

    February 24, 2014 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  21. rell87

    Time to cash it in? As if he hasn't been cashing in all along. How much has his personal fortune gone up since he entered congress?

    February 24, 2014 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. Govskeptic

    "Not a congress he recognizes anymore"? He was a leader in making the division we now see, so it's only
    his advanced age and constant partisanship that has helped cause the problems. 87 years old, no wonder
    the state of Michigan is in the shape it's been in for years. What's the average IQ of these supporters/voters?

    February 24, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Abbey

    Laughable if Mr. Dingell compares his fight for the middle class. His voting recording and support of large government is not what the middle class wants.

    February 24, 2014 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  24. Jessica McGwin

    Term limits. While I admire his service, and his love of country. I disagree with that length of time. It reduces power sources and increase concurrent stagnation. His people did not object. Even though poverty and job loss consumed the state. Interesting?

    February 24, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  25. DorkInChief

    LOL! "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."

    58 YEARS...

    February 24, 2014 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9