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Dingell to leave House he no longer recognizes

Posted 02/25/2014 12:56 pm by

 

He was the last of the true committee barons, one who muscled for legislative turf and who had been known to pound his gavel so hard it shattered.

Representative John Dingell, a Democrat from Michigan, announces his retirement after record 59 years in Congress.

But this is a city where no one seems to have the clout to make things happen anymore, and where even the most junior members of Congress have the ability to stop those who try.Which is why it is no longer John Dingell’s Washington. And why he has decided to hang it up when his term ends.Dingell is still up to the job, he insisted, though he is a frail 87 years old. The problem, he said, is Congress itself.

“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” he told the Detroit News, which on Monday broke the story that Dingell plans to retire. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

“Is it fixable?” Dingell said in an interview with The Washington Post. “There’s only one person that can fix it, and there’s only one group of people that can answer that question, and that’s the voters. If they want it to change, it will change.”

Having served 59 years — longer than anyone in the history of Congress — Dingell (D-Mich.) left his imprint on legislation that ranged from the establishment of Medicare to environmental laws to civil rights legislation.

In the 1980s, the prospect of a subpoena from his headline-
grabbing investigative subcommittee was so terrifying that some Washington law firms built a specialty practice that the newspaper American Lawyer dubbed “the Dingell bar.”

Dingell’s is the latest in a series of high-profile departures from the House, marking both a generational shift and the vanishing of a breed of master lawmakers.

Among those who have also recently announced that they will not seek reelection is his longtime adversary Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who in 2008 unseated him as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Dingell was shoved aside because a new wave of liberal, activist lawmakers, elected in 2006 and 2008, viewed him as an

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