February 24th, 2014
10:06 AM ET
8 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. Tampa Tim

    A mandatory retirement age is discriminatory and violates a person' rights based on age. Let's don't go there.

    February 24, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. Sniffit

    " Nobody wther they are Republican or Democrat should ever have the potenial to sever this long in Congress"

    The founding fathers very much disagreed.

    February 24, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  3. bczu

    Politics is not a career, its a public service! 87 years old? Come on....

    February 24, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    "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.
    ---------------------------------–
    Well, let's look at those "many, many, years" of yours. Prior to Barack Obama's election, Republicans had ran the government, dude. Since 1980, they'd sat in the White House for 20 our of the previous 28 years. They'd taken control of both chambers of the Congress in 1994, nad lost it only because of a stubborn adherence to their dogma, instead of what the people actually wanted.

    No, dude. Republicans have owned the government for the past three decades. They have done so through political contributinos of weatlhy donors. What is wrong with unions, anyway? Unions are made up of people. Corporations view people as profit/loss statements. Republicans were all for campaign finance laws until Democrats outraised them in 2008.

    February 24, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  5. Kevin in va

    He has already been there way too long

    February 24, 2014 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  6. Ol' Yeller

    "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."
    Rudy, you got it completely right (pardon the pun) in your last sentence. DC Johnny likes to pretend in grandiose fashion that he is some kind of political genius, when in fact his knowledge of politics is rudimentary at best and he is a complete idealogue (short on the idea part, though).

    February 24, 2014 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  7. DC Treason

    I was taught to respect my elders. I have never heard your name even once as someone who stood up against the needless wars and unmanageable debt the USA has manufactured. For 58 years you could have spoken up and been a hero, instead you were just another puppet. Your obedience to your corporate masters has been duly noted.

    February 24, 2014 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. just asking

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

    he is 87. i doubt we will be paying them for very long.

    but the bigger question is why have these government seats turned into life long careers? why are they many times passed from one family member to another? people should not vote for people this old, who turn these seats into a kingdom. the problem is the dumb voters that keep eelcting these people.

    February 24, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  9. JJR

    Term limits anyone?

    February 24, 2014 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  10. Tommy G

    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.
    --

    You are quite delusional today. Unions have shown they are a fatal disease to the host they attach to, be it a city like Detroit, or car companies. Unions have destroy themselves. Even when people vote, as they did in Tennessee, unions are rejected. Their leftist philosophy is 18th century and destructive. People now see that and righly reject it.

    February 24, 2014 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  11. TLORop

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

    You stayed way too long. Why aren't there term limits like for the president?

    February 24, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  12. danno

    Good riddance. Don't let the door hit you in the butt.

    February 24, 2014 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  13. sly

    An American hero. Congratulations Mr. Dingall – you have been a champion fighting for progressive change.

    You must be proud of America today – our President is one of the most progressive leaders in history.

    These are good times for America!

    February 24, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Kenman

    Good, about time! These career politicians are a big part of the problem in the nation today and not at all what the Founders intended, as originally they only served part time as necessary and went home and made an HONEST living and didn't meddle in the lives of every American every day!

    It's also a disgrace that anyone would continue to vote the same person back in 29 times! Do they have no other qualified public SERVANTS!?

    February 24, 2014 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  15. ustateach09

    Congress isn't supposed to be a lifelng career – I VOTE FOR TERM LIMITS!!

    February 24, 2014 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  16. tom l

    The party of "choice" supports unions. You get hired a company with union workers and you have no choice. You must join. You must also have dues go to that union. No choice. That union will use your dues that you had no choice but to pay for and go out to politically lobby (even if you don't agree with it). No choice.

    Of course the liberals on here will go nuts and tell us that thanks to the unions we have 40 hour work weeks and blah blah blah. But try as they might to slither around the fact that you have no choice they will do their best by bringing up something irrelevant to the fact that you have no choice but to join the union.

    February 24, 2014 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  17. Donna

    sly
    These are good times for America!
    --

    Tell that to the record numbes of unemployed for record time thanks to Progressive policies. A stagnant economy that is creating a pathetically low number of jobs. Astronomical debt and deficits. The destruction of our healthcare system. Yup, that is the definition of 'Progressive success".

    February 24, 2014 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  18. Rick

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

    You were there for 58 years............OF COURSE YOU STAYED TOO LONG!!

    February 24, 2014 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  19. stephen douglas

    Pretty funny..."I don't want people to say I stayed too long"....after 58 years in a position that should never allow anyone to stay beyond eight years.

    "It's time to cash it in...." Like he and the rest have not been cashing in ever since they were elected.

    I'd love to know what this elected official is worth after spending his entire working life – from age 29 – as a congressman. It would really be telling if his only source of income was the result of his position. How would a congressman end up worth millions of bucks, and don't forget the retirement benefits.

    February 24, 2014 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  20. Donna

    tom l
    The party of "choice" supports unions. You get hired a company with union workers and you have no choice. You must join. You must also have dues go to that union. No choice. That union will use your dues that you had no choice but to pay for and go out to politically lobby (even if you don't agree with it). No choice.
    Of course the liberals on here will go nuts and tell us that thanks to the unions we have 40 hour work weeks and blah blah blah. But try as they might to slither around the fact that you have no choice they will do their best by bringing up something irrelevant to the fact that you have no choice but to join the union.
    --

    Don't forget you also now have a "choice" of healthcare plans that they have defined. Twice the cost for coverage not needed, or wanted. By the Progressive leftists know you better than you know yourself and your familiy.

    February 24, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  21. stephen douglas

    Pretty funny -I don't want people to say I stayed too long – after 58 years in a position that should never allow anyone to stay beyond eight years.

    It's time to cash it in -Like he and the rest have not been cashing in ever since they were elected.

    I'd love to know what this elected official is worth after spending his entire working life – from age 29 – as a congressman. It would really be telling if his only source of income was the result of his position and ended up worth millions of bucks. And don't forget the retirement benefits.

    February 24, 2014 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  22. yolanda

    Very lame moderator, very lame. Your bias is blatant.

    February 24, 2014 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  23. Democrat Demolition Party

    58 years of destroying this country with your far left polciitcs. Good riddance and please issue an apology to the young people who's lives and future you have wrecked with trillions in debt on their backs.

    February 24, 2014 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  24. sly

    sly
    These are good times for America!
    -

    Tell that to the record numbes of unemployed for record time thanks to Progressive policies. A stagnant economy that is creating a pathetically low number of jobs. Astronomical debt and deficits. The destruction of our healthcare system. Yup, that is the definition of 'Progressive success".
    ====
    Oh Donna – everyone in America knows the job loss started when the Big American Multinational Corporations (Coke, Intel, IBM, all Oil Companies etc...) took their jobs offshore. It was the progressives that fought NAFTA and the other disasterous Republican job loss policies.

    Stock market at all time high. 401K at all time high. Deficit pct at 50-year low, down 36% this year alone.

    Good times.

    February 24, 2014 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  25. Tony D

    Democrat Dinosaur of U.S. House to retire

    FIFY.... let's be honest CNN. It is more accurate.

    February 24, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
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