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Rep John Dingell D Michigan

Reform leader Rep. John Dingell plans to retire

By Jessica Zigmond
Posted: February 24, 2014 - 1:30 pm ET

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), a strong leader behind the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the longest serving member of the U.S. House of Representatives, will retire at the end of his current term, the congressman announced Monday.

President Barack Obama released a statement that said both the people of Michigan and the American people are better off because of Dingell.

“Decades after his father first introduced a bill for comprehensive health reform, John continued to introduce healthcare legislation at the beginning of every session,” the president said. “And as an original author of the Affordable Care Act, he helped give millions of families the peace of mind knowing they won't lose everything if they get sick.”

During his storied congressional career that began in the mid-1950s, Dingell was well known for his work in healthcare.

“A veteran and consummate public servant, beyond being the longest serving member of Congress, Congressman Dingell's impact can be felt on some of the most important legislation of the past century,” Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) said in a statement. Pallone hopes to become either chairman or ranking member of the full Energy and Commerce Committee in the next Congress following Dingell's retirement. “From Medicare to the Affordable Care Act to the Clean Air Act, Congressman Dingell's work endures and continues to improve people's lives every day,” Pallone said.

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Dingell's commitment to healthcare reform was seen in an October 2009 article in Talking Points Memo, when he shared some comments he had made in a closed-door caucus meeting of House Democrats. Dingell emphasized that Republicans are “out there to beat us by seeing we accomplish nothing during this Congress,” a tactic he said the GOP used in 1993.

“I pointed out that there are 47 million Americans—not 35 that would be able to draw benefits under this,” Dingell told TPM. “That's not only a moral, but an economic necessity. Because we can no longer afford the cost of health insurance … I pointed out that by 2082 or thereabout two curves will cross on a graph. The first the cost of healthcare, the second the United States GDP.”

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) in a statement commended Dingell for always putting his Michigan constituents first throughout his nearly six decades of public service. Upton—who named a hearing room in the Rayburn House office building for Dingell last year—said Dingell will be remembered not only as “Dean of the House,” but also as someone with “an incredible record of getting the job done.”

Dingell will leave behind his career in the lower chamber that began in December 1955, when he won a special election to fill his father's seat after John Dingell Sr. died. He went on to win the regular election in 1956 and has since been re-elected 29 times.

The Michigan Democrat later served as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981 until 1994 and again from 2007 to 2008, and is famous on Capitol Hill for his forthright questioning style of hearing witnesses in which he routinely asks them to respond simply “yes” or “no” to his list of questions. A conservationist, Dingell was a force behind the Endangered Species Act, the 1990 Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and legislation to build North America's first international wildlife refuge.

Follow Jessica Zigmond on Twitter: @MHjzigmond

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