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Longest-serving U.S. Representative John Dingell announces retirement

This morning, both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News reported that U.S. Representative John Dingell will not seek re-election for a record-breaking 30th full term. Dingell is already the longest-serving member of Congress, having been first elected in 1955.

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), 87, the longest serving member of Congress in U.S. history, gives a 'thumbs up' before announcing his retirement at a luncheon February 24, 2014 in Southgate, Michigan.
Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Dingell, who represents Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and surrounding areas of Washtenaw County as part of Michigan’s 12th Congressional District, announced his decision in a statement containing the text of his annual “State of the District” speech that he gave to the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce at noon today.

“Around this time every two years, my wife Deborah and I confer on the question of whether I will seek reelection. 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.”

In remarks quoted by the Detroit News and reprinted in Slate, Dingell attributed his decision to becoming fed up with the current condition of Congress. He said "I find serving in the House to be obnoxious. It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets."

Dingell also stated that it was time for him to retire and that he did not want to be either someone who stayed in Congress too long or died in office. As he told the Detroit News, "I’m not going to be carried out feet first."

Dingell claimed that his decision was not driven by health concerns. He claimed to be “as smart and capable as anyone on the Hill” and to have received a clean bill of health from his doctor, even though he will turn 88 this June.

In his address to the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce, Dingell thanked his supporters, staffers, and colleagues. He also summarized his accomplishments over the past 59 years, saying "I want to express my thanks and gratitude to the many colleagues, past and present, who have worked with me for civil rights and equity for all, cleaner water, for cleaner air, to protect consumers, to expand our nation's energy supply, and—above all—to make sure that every person in the United States has access to affordable health care.”

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lon Johnson was among many who issued statements praising Dingell. “Congressman John Dingell has been a lion in Congress, and his decades of leadership serve as an example for all of us," said Johnson in a press release. "For many years, Congressman Dingell has worked tirelessly on our behalf - fighting to protect American automakers and workers, leading the fight for historic environmental projections, and representing hardworking people from Michigan and from around the country. He has earned the respect of his peers and of Michigan families, and he makes Michigan proud."

Even Dingell’s opponents on the other side of the aisle praised him. In a statement quoted by the Free Press, Republican Representative Tim Walberg, who represents western and northern Washtenaw County as part of Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, had kind things to say about Dingell.

“For so many of us it has been a honor to serve alongside the dean of the House, whose impact on behalf of Michigan cannot be understated. Though we often differ on policy, we share a love for country and the constituents we represent in southeast Michigan. With his departure, we will be losing a distinguished legislator and public servant and I wish him all the best.”

President Barack Obama issued a statement acknowledging Dingell's role in drafting and passing the Affordable Care Act and thanking him for his long service. It concluded with “Today, the people of Michigan – and the American people – are better off because of John Dingell’s service to this country, and Michelle and I wish him, his wife Debbie, and their family the very best.”

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