The longest serving member of Congress will step down at the end of this year.
Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell has held office since 1955. Dingell announced* his decision to retire on Monday speaking before the Southern Wayne County Regional Chamber of Commerce. href=”http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140224/POLITICS02/302240051″>The Detroit News reported earlier on Monday that he planned to announce his retirement.
“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,” Dingell said Monday, according to prepared remarks.
“That time has come,” he said.
Dingell told the Detroit News that his decision was largely a result of the increased partisanship in Congress — a factor mentioned by a number of other members who have announced their retirement this year.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he said. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”
“This is not the Congress I know and love. It’s hard for me to accept, but it’s time to cash it in,” he added.
A former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell was a big player on environmental issues, and also an advocate for the auto industry. He was also the lead sponsor of the Affordable Care Act when it passed the House in 2009 and he has been championing a universal health-care law since he took office 60 years ago.
“You all know that I have made it my life’s work to ensure affordable health care for all, and the progress being made encourages me greatly,” he said Monday.
Dingell would be 88 at the start of next term, and he told the Detroit News that while his health was “good enough that I could have done it again,” he did not want to pass away in office, and said: “I’m not certain I would have been able to serve out the two-year term.”
“I’m not going to be carried out feet first,” he said. “I don’t want people to say I stayed too long.”
Dingell was a champion of the auto industry, but also an advocate for the environment, writing the clean air and water bills and helping obtain thousands of acres for parks and preserves. He cites those as his greatest accomplishments, along with civil rights, food and drug safety, immigration reform and finally, the Affordable Care Act. He views the health-care reform law as a tribute to his father, whose primary cause was universal health care.
*This post has been updated with Dingell’s official announcement.