February 24th, 2014
10:06 AM ET
7 years 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.
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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. ThinkAgain

    @Sniffit: "I wish all Democrats would follow his lead and retire. This country would be better off."

    This country would be a Christian version of Iran within a few months if that happened."

    Ah, but which version of Christianity? Catholic? (if so, which flavor?)
    Seventh Day Adventist?
    Church of Christ?
    Jehovah Witnesses?
    United Methodist? (probably not; they believe in social justice).
    Mormon? (my bad, most Christians consider them a cult).

    Partial list; boy, there's a lot of them! And so many of them despise each other! What to do, what to do ... Good thing we've got a separation of Church and State.

    Which we should all vehemently fight to protect!

    February 24, 2014 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  2. Mark in Montana

    I wish news outlets, common people, and the actual ones involved in particular, would stop saying 'He served for..' He didn't serve anyone or thing. He had a job that the did, but he was paid for it, and paid very well. He had all sorts of benefits and perks due to the job. To serve implies that you are not paid, or at least well underpaid for the work you are doing.

    There is no such thing as a public 'servant'. There are employees of various governments, and they work for the tax payers.

    February 24, 2014 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  3. glk20c

    He knows the Dems are finished. Even that creep Waxman turned it in.

    February 24, 2014 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  4. tom l

    "That quote is directly from him. I don't care about the video. We can all say things that might not come out exactly as we want them to. His explanation is perfectly reasonable and legitimate. He isn't against the Civil Rights Act and you are lying when you say that he is. He clarified what he said and it lines up directly with his actions. Not sure why you have to lie about someone's position. But that's what you do."

    The video will keep Rand Paul out of the White House. He was quite clear during the interview. He began a racist rant, and Rachel Maddow allowed him to babble on to his heart's content. Paul said that he felt store owners should be allowed to discrimminate against certain races if they wanted to. Paul said that he didn't support the Civil Rights Act, which he didn't deny. Paul denied saying he was against the Civil Rights Act, which we know he didn't say.

    Rand Paul will never be POTUS. Between his rants and his father's newsletters, Rand Paul is doomed to be a footnote. You don't care about the video for one simple reason, tom. You don't care what the facts are. The facts don't fit the narrative, so we ignore them. They're Paul's own words.

    Rand Paul is not a racist. I don't have the time to watch a 52 minute video but I did watch one (he's wearing a yellow tie) where he explains his position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I don't understand where you find racism there. He specifically says he is for it with regards to public/govt places and has a hard time with telling private businesses they aren't allowed to discriminate. Would he discriminate? Of course not. That's obvious. If he's such a racist then why would he want to restore voting rights to felons (of which Sniffit has told me affects African Americans more)? You are just too simple minded for critical thinking. You can say that you feel something should be legal while not agreeing with it. You can't separate the fact that he feels something should be legal that he doesn't agree with so you label him a racist. He is the exact opposite of a racist but you just can't wrap your hands around that thought process. It requires critical thought and goes outside the boundaries of your simple thoughts.

    February 24, 2014 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  5. Dan

    Good! Dont let the door hit you on the way out

    February 24, 2014 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  6. apetra

    The last 'Dean' of the U.S. Senate to retire from Democrat politics was Robert Byrd, former Grand Kleagle of the Klu Klux Klan.

    February 24, 2014 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  7. sly

    Congratulations Rep Dingell – you are a true national hero.
    Is there any lower form of life on this planet than an American? Disrespectful, ignorany, blaming, whiney.

    February 24, 2014 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  8. Mike

    glk20c The Dems are through? I don't know what fantasy land you live in. If the Republican party doesn't get their act together Hillary will be your next President. The Republican party is the most dysfunctional I have seen in my life time right now. They are fighting amongst themselves between the Tea Party and the Progressive Republicans. They have no unity and look like a bunch of nuts right now.

    February 24, 2014 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. Paul Cooper

    "No President should have to tell a Congress that if that august body cannot do its task he will do it by executive order."

    That sentence proves Dingell should have left long ago. No president has the authority to say that to Congress. If a majority in Congress cannot agree on what should be done, nothing gets done. That is not a flaw in the system; it is the design of the system. Only those things that a majority of the Congress approves of can be done. When presidents usurp that authority because Congress won't do what they think it should, we no longer a divided and limited government; we have a monarchy.

    You may like what President Obama wants to do by fiat. I promise you that you will not like what some future president does based on his precedent.

    February 24, 2014 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  10. bruce

    glad he did not stay to long only 58 years. Congress was NOT meant to be a lifetime job. Come November
    les flush all these old stayed to long elected officials out the door and elect the right Republicans to
    get America back on track with the Dems making smart choices and not to just carry people thru
    their life and their kids lives bankrupting all.

    February 24, 2014 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. registered voter

    It should be a cap on all of their tenure.

    February 24, 2014 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  12. Tampa Tim

    Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms are still the darlings of the red staters.

    February 24, 2014 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. grumblesfromthegrave

    Why glorify someone who ate at the public trough for 40+ years?
    His retirement reminds me of Brooks in "Shawshank Redemption" – I doubt he knows how to live in the outside world. Hope he'll choose a better ending, but....it's certain he'll have to re-learn what it is NOT to have so many perks handed to you on a platter.....

    February 24, 2014 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  14. Lynda/Minnesota

    "I doubt he knows how to live in the outside world. Hope he'll choose a better ending, but....it's certain he'll have to re-learn what it is NOT to have so many perks handed to you on a platter....."

    At age 87? He "needs" nothing but peace and tranquility at this time in his life, which I suspect he will enjoy to the fullest.

    February 24, 2014 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  15. Chris-E...al

    I AGree with the old man ! Its n0t the dim party he use to no ! He is ashamed of all their immoral acts an beliefs .

    February 24, 2014 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  16. Brenda/Florida

    How do we get term limits NOW ....How old is this guys wife?

    February 24, 2014 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
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