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. Jonus Grumby

    Another poster child for term limits.

    February 24, 2014 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  2. DG

    It is about time he gets out he has done enough to ruin the state of Michigan and this country.

    February 24, 2014 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  3. FCV

    The operative phrase in one of his quotes is, "time to cash it in."

    February 24, 2014 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  4. Mercury1111

    I tried calling Mr. Dingell on his cell phone, but couldn't get through since he kept trying to answer the TV remote.
    Sent him a DVD of a video my family and I made as a tribute, but he said it got stuck in his VCR.
    The emails I sent him went unread as he said he couldn't read them on his typewriter.

    February 24, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "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."

    I can only speak for my husband and myself, tom I. Just to be clear: that union job he had for 28 years came in handy for us. Indeed. I was able to use my income to purchase our little cabin we so enjoy while he concentrated on paying for our primary residence, our daughters schooling, and our retirement. The pension he now receives is from that union job he stuck with over the years. Although that job was eliminated in 2007 (he was rehired as a lesser paid contractor for that same job), we will always be grateful he was able to hold onto it as long as he did while it was still union.

    February 24, 2014 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  6. Rudy NYC

    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.
    ----------------------------------
    Unions didn't run the car companies. Unions didn't force the auto CEOs to arrive in DC in corporate jets when they came looking for a bailout. Unions didn't cause the economy to collapse. Unions didn't cause Detroit's revenue to fall by half.

    All of that, and more, was manufactured by the elite at the top. For example, in that late 60s and early 70s, GM had half of the American consumer market well in hand with roughly 40 consumer models. By 2008, GM had only a 15% market share that featured more than 90 consumer models. Bad leadership caused GM's failure, not union membership.

    February 24, 2014 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  7. Joe

    "I'm still as smart and as capable as anyone on the Hill"........No argument there.

    February 24, 2014 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  8. grace

    This man is a national treasure and he should be honored for his gracious service towards improving all of our lives. He is a Democrat so it goes without saying that he has done many wonderful things for our country. Just because you haven't heard his name before means absolutely nothing other than that you obviously live under a rock and are racist. Just think we could have had George Bush in his seat, what would you racists be saying then?

    February 24, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. Pliny

    TERM LIMITS now.

    February 24, 2014 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  10. Really?

    He doesn't want anyone to think he stayed too long? LOL!!!!

    February 24, 2014 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  11. tom l

    @DMFO and Lynda,

    tom l said to Lynda:
    "How have you become so incredibly partisan that you don't recognize that?"

    Lynda MInnesota stated:
    I have no idea where you are going with this comment. I was simply reminding you that President Obama was in fact born on American soil (which you neglected to state in your comment).
    -----------------
    tom l , I believe the point that Lynda was making is that President Obama was born in the US; therefore, his mother being an American citizen is nice, but irrelevant.
    There is no need to have a discussion about President Obama's mother's citizenship because.....President Obama was born in the US.
    Additionally tom l, the charge of partisanship that you have leveled at Lynda is undeserved and uninformed.
    Lynda has been a Republican all of her life.
    She just happens to be one of a huge growing number of disenchanted Republicans that don't know what in the hell has happened to their Party.
    ==============
    Fair enough ladies and I understand your point. Lynda, I meant no disrespect bringing your grandchildren in to the conversation. I was just trying to personalize something to you because you have talked about them before and your experiences with them so I thought perhaps you would better understand the point that I was trying to make. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less. The point I’m trying to make is that it was ridiculous to think Obama was not eligible. It made no sense to me because his mom was American therefore, to me, he is an American and eligible to be president no matter where he was born. He could be born on the moon and he would be eligible to me. And, to me, the same holds true with regards to Cruz. His mother is American and so is he. That’s it. As far as Lynda being a liberal now after years of being a republican, that honestly fascinates me and it makes even more intrigued to understand greater. You don’t think I’m a disenchanted republican? That’s why I’m a libertarian now. I am entirely a disenchanted republican. I guess the difference for me is that just because I became disenchanted with repubs didn’t personally make me enchanted with dems. Just the opposite happened to me and I became even more disenchanted with dems, actually BOTH parties, because I believe, and I have said this repeatedly, that from both parties the politicians main goals are to get reelected, get more power and money. I’m not saying liberals are bad people so please don’t misinterpret that. All I’m saying is that the reason I changed to being a libertarian and not a democrat is because I still have many of my conservative values (mainly fiscal) which I still disagree with dems on, but on the social issues I can’t support repubs because I disagree with them. With regards to foreign intervention and our foreign follies, BOTH parties own our huge problems overseas.

    And you’re definitely right about the fact that sometimes I misinterpret and misread comments from you and will make a point to read more clearly. What can I say? I’m a human being and can get fired up, probably like you, and want to fire back and emotions get the best of me. :)

    February 24, 2014 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  12. PHinMiami

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

    Too late! ( 20 or 30 years too late )

    February 24, 2014 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  13. Planotxgwm

    I wish our congressman, Sam Johnson (R) , in Collin County Texas would take a hint from this guy. He'll be 84 when running for re-election in Nov and of course in this county people don't think – they simply pick Republican party line and pull the lever. We need some new blood in Washington.

    February 24, 2014 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  14. RachaelA

    "I don't want people to say I stayed too long." Seriously? When the young people who elected you the first time are now great grandparents it is a sign you have been there too long!

    February 24, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  15. jorge washinsen

    Adios and do not let the door hit you.

    February 24, 2014 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Ridiculous. Term Limits need to be implemented. Imagine how stagnant he grew afer all those years I think weshuld see is track record before applauding him. Wonder what he did behind close doors? He mst have done a fairly good job to not have beenbusted for anything over the years. Maybe he was a member of the Ole' boys club whr people actually cared for it's people, maybe not. Who knows but he served way to may terms.

    February 24, 2014 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. Will S

    The same family has controlled a vote in the House for 84 years, and now his wife is considering a run? How Roman. This is criminal, or should be. Six terms (12 yrs) for a Congressman, two (12 yrs) for a senator, and one six-year term for a President. That would work.

    February 24, 2014 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. Jim

    Dinglle's fingerprints are on every bad decision and program for over half century. He inherited a Detroit that was the envy of the industrialized world, and turned it into an abandoned hulk.

    February 24, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Ian

    "I dont want people to say I stayed too long." Well sir, let me be the first to say, you stayed too long.

    February 24, 2014 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. Ol' Yeller

    "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."

    Ah, out of the mouths of babes once again.... If you do not want to be in a Union, no one makes you join a Union. If you apply for, interview for, and accept a position in a Union Shop and enjoy all the benefits thereof, then that would be part of your employment agreement. In your way of thinking, I guess, I could get a job at McDonald's and then refuse to touch food, saying I shouldn't have to touch food, or wear a McDonald's uniform, or take money, or sweep floors... I have a choice and you are taking that away from me simply because I agreed to work here. It is a ridiculous and silly argument
    Your 'choice' involves taking a job in a Union Shop and enjoying all benefits thereof... or not (read a book, man). You are like those people who complain their tax doallers are being spent for (fiill in blank) and then crying because of it.
    Victim, victim, victim... the argument utilized 98% of the time by ALL republicants at all levels.
    Why your party is dying...

    February 24, 2014 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Zack

    I honestly don't care what political party he represents. 58 years is too long of a term. Not only that, the fact that the only other person that has held the seat was his father, and the likely successor is his wife screams of a system that needs an adjustment. He's been in office longer than 80% of the population has been alive. That seems like an issue to me.

    February 24, 2014 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Rudy NYC

    tom l

    The party of "choice" supports unions. You get hired [by] 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.
    -------------------------
    Meanwhile, you "choose" to ignore the obvious once again. The fact that the employee *chose* to work at the company in the first place.

    February 24, 2014 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  23. Andy

    Reading this immediately makes me think 'Term Limits'. President's have them! Now let's give them to congress members and cut out the 'good-old-boy' networks ... with the hope of an effective congress.

    February 24, 2014 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. J Russ

    "What is wrong with unions, anyway? Unions are made up of people."

    So are corporations.

    February 24, 2014 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  25. John

    Dingle and Levin plus Waxman, looks like congress is starting to take a DUMP! Conyors of Michigan should go next and there may be hops for Detroit and Michigan.!

    February 24, 2014 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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