February 24th, 2014
10:06 AM ET
6 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. John

    Dingle and Levin plus Waxman, looks like congress is starting to clean it's act. Conyors of Michigan should go next and there may be hope for Detroit and Michigan.!

    February 24, 2014 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  2. Democrat Demolition Party

    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.
    -–

    So what is the problem with Hobby Lobby defining its own benefits? Employees chose to work there as well. If they don't like the nenefits, work elsewhere, just as if you don't like unions, don't apply to a union shop.

    February 24, 2014 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. J Savik

    Good to see so many of these old farts leaving gerrymandered designated democrat districts.

    February 24, 2014 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  4. tcp

    Well at least he's leaving his district better than he found it...oh, wait.

    February 24, 2014 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  5. Democrat Demolition Party

    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.!
    -–

    It is a good start but when I see Pelois and Reid booted, I'll believe it.

    February 24, 2014 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  6. Furball

    Wow, 58 years...Dude as the longest member in Congress people have already stated (for years) that you are there too long. Not saying that he did a bad job – but he is there for a long time
    For those who say "time we have term limits" – they are called elections. The people, of that district, apparently wanted him in power for this much time. Forcing people out of the job after X years (where X is an arbitrary number) is kind of silly. For one, we lose institutional knowledge (which is so important). Two relationships (yes there are positive ones) are never formed. Three we would never get the best. Why would someone sacrifice so much (and being in politics you are sacrificing a lot) for a job that will only last at best X years? Politicians can convince people to vote for them. They can convince people to give them six/seven figure jobs.
    Really, I'm OK with someone staying in office for decades...I just hope the people who are voting for him know what they are doing, and term limits won't solve that issue

    February 24, 2014 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  7. Rudy NYC

    tom l wrote:

    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.
    ---------------------------
    You support Rand Paul, who is a man that feels bigotry is a form of freedom of speech and said that he'd never would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Enough said. Case closed.

    February 24, 2014 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  8. much thunder...little rain

    58 yrs come on...

    February 24, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  9. irishmanknowsall

    Thank goodness. One more barrier to progress removed. Length of "service" has nothing to do with value provided. All these knuckleheads and their do-nothing records need to leave town today. They have abandoned their public responsibilities and their oaths of office, forgetting bi-partisan cooperation and focused on graft, corruption, and a me and my state first attitude that has paralyzed this got and this country. There is no pride in being a member of this once august body. Only shame to have been a part of such a horrible legacy of greed and self-servitude. One cannot blame the empty suit lame duck in the WH for writing Exec. Orders. In order to get anything done he has to go around these do-nothing fools. The greater fools are the un-informed, non-caring American electorate that keeps sending these losers back to office again, and again, and again. We get what we deserved. Good riddance.

    February 24, 2014 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  10. Graham Smith

    Unions saved capitalism from itself.

    February 24, 2014 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Billy

    It was certainly time for him to go. Now if only Mitch McConnel would take the hint. Anybody there over 6 terms owes it to the country to step aside and let fresh blood onto the floor.

    February 24, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  12. terry whittington

    All of Congress should retire – hurting us every day and never look back because their finances are never touched by their acts like ours are

    February 24, 2014 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  13. Rudy NYC

    DDP wrote

    "Meanwhile, you "choose" to ignore the obvious once again. The fact that the employee *chose* to work at the company in the first place."

    So what is the problem with Hobby Lobby defining its own benefits? Employees chose to work there as well. If they don't like the nenefits, work elsewhere, just as if you don't like unions, don't apply to a union shop.
    ---------------------------
    Actually, just what is the problem with workers joining together and fighting for better benefits and working conditions? Happy workers are better and more productive workers. Volkswagen understands that. Hobby Lobby has no right to define what type of health care that people are PROHIBITED from having access to.

    February 24, 2014 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Rudy NYC

    J Russ

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

    So are corporations.
    ----------------------------–
    Wrong. Corporatoins are comprised of money. They don't get to vote, which means that they are NOT truly considered to be people.

    February 24, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  15. RMH

    Help eliminate lobbyists and corruption, do away with career politicians and establish term limits. Make these people work for a living and not off us. Isn't being a politician a more lucrative way of living off of the government/people?

    February 24, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  16. Lynda/Minnesota

    @ tom I: "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 wish you all the best as a libertarian, tom. I respect your decisions as they apply to you. Absolutely.

    February 24, 2014 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  17. Ed

    I suppose the title "Dean of the House" is an honorary one bestowed for getting out of bed and going to work more days than anyone else currently there, but I prefer to think of him as the "Dingleberry of the House." He's been there way too long, and should have retired years ago. Maybe he will change his mind and retire right now, instead of waiting until the end of the year.

    February 24, 2014 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  18. grace

    Rudy NYC

    You support Rand Paul, who is a man that feels bigotry is a form of freedom of speech and said that he'd never would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Enough said. Case closed.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Just because you make bigotry "illegal", doesn't mean you get rid of bigotry. All it means is you've just empowered a group of people to go out and regulate what they think is bigotry, with no public accountability or input. You are selective – you see this with the war on drugs, but choose not to see it with anything else. Having a small group of people with the power to tell the rest of us what to do and how to live is not necessary, and it's led to the biggest global problems of the modern age, with many hundreds of millions dead and many trillions of debt wracked up that we are stuck paying for with our decreasing wealth and living standards.

    February 24, 2014 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. NC

    Politics has become a blood sport. I don't blame him one bit. It is not about serving us but serving themselves.

    February 24, 2014 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  20. foreverflag

    We need term limits or retirement age limits. Time for Peliso and Reed to go also and a few of the other old farts

    February 24, 2014 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  21. Thomas

    Enjoy your retirement !

    John McCain is speechless .

    February 24, 2014 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  22. salty dog

    Congressional dynasty, let someone else have the seat, it will stay in the Democrats camp.

    February 24, 2014 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  23. salty dog

    Graham Smith, excellent comment .

    February 24, 2014 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Democrat Demolition Party

    Rudy NYC
    DDP wrote
    "Meanwhile, you "choose" to ignore the obvious once again. The fact that the employee *chose* to work at the company in the first place."
    --
    So what is the problem with Hobby Lobby defining its own benefits? Employees chose to work there as well. If they don't like the nenefits, work elsewhere, just as if you don't like unions, don't apply to a union shop.
    ---------
    Actually, just what is the problem with workers joining together and fighting for better benefits and working conditions? Happy workers are better and more productive workers. Volkswagen understands that. Hobby Lobby has no right to define what type of health care that people are PROHIBITED from having access to.
    -–

    Way to totally dodge the point I was making and throwing out smoke.

    And please stop lying about Hobby Lobby. NOBODY is being denied ANYTHING. Nobody is prohibited from anything. The issue is employers being forced to pay for something they don't want to offer, and haven't offered in the past. Employees can do whatever they want to do with their own money. Why do you or they think a company should be forced to pay for any type of medical procedure? Especially one that many concsider to be murder.

    February 24, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Paul Cardosi

    it really disgusts me that any person would stay in office that long.

    February 24, 2014 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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