Rep. John D. Dingell, the longest-serving congressman in history, announced Monday he’s so fed up with Washington politics that he’s retiring, ending a storied career that’s lasted nearly six decades.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” the 87-year-old Michigan Democrat told the Detroit News. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
Mr. Dingell will serve out the rest of his term and retire at the end of this session, making him the latest senior House lawmaker to call it quits.
He announced his retirement through two Detroit newspapers, the News and the Free Press, then followed up with a formal announcement at a chamber of commerce luncheon.
He was once a powerful congressman, serving as top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but was ousted in 2009 when he was replaced by Rep. Henry Waxman, an ally of House Democrats’ leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, both from California.
Mr. Waxman announced earlier this year he is retiring after 30 years in Congress, and Mr. Dingell had been making some overtures about trying to recapture the committee post, but his decision to retire puts an end to that.
Peers on both sides of the aisle praised Mr. Dingell as a gentleman — but also as a fierce advocate who was advantageous to have on your side.
He was involved in some of the biggest fights of the last half-century, including championing civil rights and helping pass Medicare in the 1960s, then being involved in some of the key environmental legislation of the ensuing decades.
He also was a tireless campaigner for universal health care, and was one of the original sponsors of Obamacare. He even held the gavel during the House vote that finally passed the bill.
Mr. Dingell inherited his health care push from his father, who was a congressman for 22 years until his 1955 death. The younger Mr. Dingell won that seat and has been in the House ever since, marking more than 80 years of combined service for the two men.
“Serving nearly six decades in the House of Representatives, John Dingell has earned the distinction of being both the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history and one of the most influential legislators of all time,” President Obama said in a statement acknowledging his retirement.
Mr. Dingell became the longest-serving member in Congress’s history in June, surpassing the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd.
Mr. Dingell had often battled his party’s leaders, particularly on gun control, where he was known as one of the National Rifle Association’s key Democratic allies in the House.
In 2002, redistricting threw him into the same seat as fellow Democratic Rep. Lynn Rivers, who had the backing of Mrs. Pelosi in a bitterly contested primary. Mr. Dingell emerged victorious in a landslide.
But at the end of the decade, when Mrs. Pelosi was speaker and Mr. Obama had become president, House Democrats ousted Mr. Dingell from his chairmanship, in another bitter fight. That ended a 28-year run for Mr. Dingell as the top Democrat on that panel.
Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Waxman effused praise on Monday, with the latter saying Mr. Dingell had “a legendary career.”
“He has been a role model for me and generations of members, for which I will always be grateful,” Mr. Waxman said.