February 24th, 2014
10:06 AM ET
9 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. davecu

    Thank you for your many years of service.
    Now get out!!

    YOU are part of the reason we have so many challenges in this country no matter how you have voted.
    Take your ill gotten gains and go away!

    February 24, 2014 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  2. Gator

    Far too long. Politics was never supposed to be a career-long endeavor.

    February 24, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. Tampa Tim

    I think he does not want to go out like FL rep Bill Young.

    February 24, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  4. Bill D

    The 87-year-old Democratic congressman from Michigan told the Detroit News that "I'm not going to be carried out feet first," adding that "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."

    LOL.... he doesn't think people are thinking that already?

    February 24, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  5. richard in texas

    if all the Demorats led by the Hispanic vote, voted in Texas today. Texas would be democratic...but many Hispanics and OTHER democrats just dont vote in off year elections......so if your too lazy to vote dont complain when you have top put up with Ted Cruz and tea-party extremists crazy agenda.

    February 24, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. Natrldiver

    Dingell was not a supporter of the middle class. He rode the gravy train of politics and easy money while the rest of America struggled.

    February 24, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  7. DC Johnny

    Dingell on Bush's budget: "Today I read with disappointment President Bush's $3 trillion budget. Yet again, the President has managed to put together a spending plan that continues to produce record deficits over the next two years."

    Since 2009, Dingell has voted lockstep with all of Obama's initiatives, and has kept quiet about record increases in the national debt.

    Partisan hack. So long, old man.

    February 24, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. MightyMoo

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

    and...

    "Dingell has served in the House of Representatives for 58 years."

    I'm guesisng that is more than two terms. Also...

    "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."

    Family dynasty... nice touch. Nobody wther they are Republican or Democrat should ever have the potenial to sever this long in Congress. Term limits are something that are sorely needed in that job like they were for the presidency.

    February 24, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. OtisT

    I wish that McConnell would take his lead and follow him out the door.

    February 24, 2014 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Rudy NYC

    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!!
    -------------------
    Government to the highest bidder. But, wouldn't that mean that the problem is political money, and not term limits?

    February 24, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. just asking

    The 87-year-old Democratic congressman from Michigan told the Detroit News that "I'm not going to be carried out feet first," adding that "I don't want people to say I stayed too long."
    --

    87 years old, longest serving, stay too long, nahhh? at least the old goat has a sense of humor. good riddance. any time one of these dinosaur demorcats leave congress, it is a good day for the country.

    February 24, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. admiralbrown

    Not that he did not do a good job, but he already stayed too long. Same for his brother.

    February 24, 2014 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  13. BB

    And now the taxpayers are stuck paying his retirement benefits for the rest of his life. Sheesh.

    February 24, 2014 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  14. Tommy G

    Rudy NYC
    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!!
    -------
    Government to the highest bidder. But, wouldn't that mean that the problem is political money, and not term limits?
    --

    And for many, many years the leftist uions were the highest bidder and owned government. Just recently has that been challenged. And now of course, the left thinks that is very bad.

    February 24, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. Ron

    It's odd that Congress will support early and mandatory retirement for private the sector but allow government employees to be hauled into work on a stretcher. This reminds me of the old Soviet Union were you had to really know someone in power to get kicked out.

    February 24, 2014 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. Tampa Tim

    ... rode the gravy train ... I am reminded of a little janitor in a tavern in Ohio, who managed to get elected, and after years of voting for special interests, he was able to purchase a condo on Marco Island for $835,000. Not bad for a second home on a $175,000 annual salary.

    February 24, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  17. jez oh peete

    Almost 60 years? Term limits anyone?

    February 24, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. yolanda

    @Rudy, me thinks that it is both political money and term limits.

    February 24, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  19. Rudy NYC

    DC Johnny wrote:

    Since 2009, Dingell has voted lockstep with all of Obama's initiatives, and has kept quiet about record increases in the national debt.

    Partisan hack. So long, old man.
    -----------------------------–
    Sounds good enough for an enthusiastic applause. You ignore the facts, though. The Bush administration handed over a budget with a $1.4 trilion deficit. Republicans have written and passed the budgets for the past four years. Only an ideologue would ignore these simple facts.

    February 24, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  20. CosmicC

    The concept of term limits sounds good, but in practice that would mean you always have a bunch of inexperienced people in charge. The other side of the coin is that new ideas are always needed. Too bad we can't rely on people to step down when it's in the interest of "the people" for them to do so.

    February 24, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  21. Donna

    Let's start with a mandatory retirement age of 85 from Congress. Honestly, none of these people have the physical stamina needed to do the job. It is so depressing to see them hold on to the bitter end and die in office. It is good to see him go before that happened.

    February 24, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  22. The Sheriff

    How come we can't run politicians out by rail now?

    February 24, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  23. admiralbrown

    My mistake it is Carl And Sandy Levin that are brothers. Again term limits is the theme, no need for a ruling class in America, serve a few years and move on, not make a career representing other people.

    February 24, 2014 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  24. Dead Bear

    I love the naive Republican imbeciles on here who actually think the GOP will pick up this seat. Look at the district he represents! Your party of old rich men and racists has about a snowball's chance in Hell of winning there. But thanks for the daily dose of laughter... Go back to drawing up bills that discriminate against gays in the name of religious freedom. Sounds like a winning formula for gaining public support to me.(That's sarcasm for those too stupid or Republican to recognize it)

    February 24, 2014 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  25. Sniffit

    "And for many, many years the leftist uions were the highest bidder and owned government. Just recently has that been challenged. And now of course, the left thinks that is very bad."

    Yawn. Unions have been absolutely gutted since Reagan's presidency. There's no "just recently" about it. Reagan and the GOP have systematically destroyed union representation and organization across the country for over 4 decades and it shows in the trends regarding membership, wages failing to keep up with inflation, the dismemberment of the middle-class and the ever-faster-growing wealth gap. The past 40+ years of GOP policies have, in fact, created 2 Americas...one percent that looks like America and the rest that looks like its third-world stepbrother who takes a beating on a daily basis from its errant, sociopath older sibling.

    February 24, 2014 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
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