• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

John Dingell To Become Longest Serving Member Of Congress In History

Michigan Congressman John Dingell is mere days away from becoming the longest serving Member Of Congress in American history:

He came to Capitol Hill before the advent of velcro, NASA and remote control TV; he had a hand in some of the most significant legislative achievements of the last century, including the creation of Medicare; and this week, Rep. John Dingell Jr. will become the longest-serving member in the history of Congress.

The Michigan Democrat on Friday will notch his 20,996th day on Capitol Hill, surpassing the late-Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) as the most durable lawmaker in the country’s history.

It’s been quite a ride.

First elected during the Eisenhower administration, Dingell has watched from Congress as the civil rights movement unfolded, JFK was assassinated, Richard Nixon resigned, wars divided the country and men walked on the moon.

He replaced his father, John Dingell Sr., who died in office in 1955 after more than 20 years representing Michigan in the House. Since then, he’s been reelected 29 times, almost always with overwhelming support. Last November, he took 68 percent of the vote.

The elder Dingell was a driving force behind the creation of Social Security and a leading sponsor of the first proposal to create a national healthcare plan – efforts the son has not forgotten. Indeed, in every Congress since 1957, the younger Dingell has introduced a universal healthcare bill as his first act of business

Though never in leadership, the imposing Dingell – nicknamed “Big John,” not least for his 6’4″ frame – rose to chair the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee while championing some of the most consequential laws of any generation, including the Clean Air Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and ObamaCare.

Along the way, he built a reputation as a tireless advocate for Michigan interests and a fierce watchdog over the executive branch – characteristics being celebrated by leaders on both sides of the aisle this month as Dingell moves closer to his date with history.

“For more than 57 years, from gaveling down Medicare to enacting the Affordable Care Act, from advancing civil rights to fighting for the people of Michigan, Congressman Dingell has not only witnessed history – he has made it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an email. “His legacy is found in our nation’s laws, and he continues to inspire us today with his fierce commitment to public service

Let’s do some quite math here. John Dingell Sr was first elected to Congress in the Election of 1932 in a newly created district as a result of the 1930 Census. He served in that seat until 1955 when he passed away. Then his son, the current John Dingell was elected to replace him and has continued to serve in Congress, although in differently numbered districts over the years, for the past 57 years. That’s nearly 80 years in which a father and son have represented essentially the same geographic area of Michigan in Congress. Somehow, I don’t think that’s such a great thing. Turnover in office is a good thing, and that’s why I’m generally supportive of term limits at all levels of elected government. There’s no rational reason for the Dingell family to control a Congressional seat for eight decades.

Incidentally, even if Dingell only stays in office until the end of his current term he will have served more than 21,500 days. The next closest tenured Member of Congress currently serving is Congressman John Conyers, also of Michigan, who has served since January 1965, a total of 17,684 days.

Related Posts:

About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Moosebreath says:

    “That’s nearly 80 years in which a father and son have represented essentially the same geographic area of Michigan in Congress. Somehow, I don’t think that’s such a great thing. Turnover in office is a good thing, and that’s why I’m generally supportive of term limits at all levels of elected government. There’s no rational reason for the Dingell family to control a Congressional seat for eight decades.”

    Nice to see a Libertarian advocating taking decisions out of individuals’ hands and having a government-imposed solution to correct perceived failures in the marketplace (this one of ideas, not goods and services).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  2. @Moosebreath:

    Because unlimited seniority tends to lead to incumbents who spend way too much time inside the Beltway, and way too much time growing the size, scope, and power of the state.

    Also, there’s nothing anti-libertarian about term limits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  3. Matt Bernius says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Also, there’s nothing anti-libertarian about term limits.

    Can you unpack that sir? As I have a hard time understanding that one (based on my admittedly limited understanding of libertarianism).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. PJ says:

    My first point against term limits would be the longest serving MP during the 20th century, he was first elected on 1 October 1900 and he was then a member of Parliament, except for a brief period in 1908 and between 1922 and 1924, until 25 September 1964.

    I wonder what Europe would have been today if he had had to leave the House of Commons in let say 1910 or 1920?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. Moosebreath says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “Also, there’s nothing anti-libertarian about term limits.”

    Nothing anti-libertarian about a governmentally-inposed restriction imposed by the majority on adult individuals preventing them from making their own informed decisions about matters which affect them personally!?! You must have a very different definition of Libertarianism than I’ve ever seen.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. PJ says:

    So much for the invisible hand!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  7. Andre Kenji says:

    Term limits are a horrible idea. They increase the influence of out of state money in elections and inexperienced legislators are more vulnerable to lobbyists. On the other hand, and I don´t want to sound ageist, the Congress is not a nursing home. Mandatory retirement after certain age would not be a bad idea.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  8. PJ says:

    7 Representatives (1.6%) have been a member since at least January 1975, that’s 38 years.
    9 Representatives (2.1%) have been a member since January 1977, that’s 36 years.
    10 Representatives (2.3%) have been a member since January 1979, that’s 34 years.
    15 Representatives (3.4%) have been a member since January 1981, that’s 32 years.
    18 Representatives (4.1%) have been a member since January 1983, that’s 30 years.
    21 Representatives (4.8%) have been a member since January 1985, that’s 28 years.
    27 Representatives (6.2%) have been a member since January 1987, that’s 26 years.
    44 Representatives (10.1%) have been a member since January 1991, that’s 22 years.
    71 Representatives (16.3%) have been a member since January 1993, that’s 20 years.
    86 Representatives (19.8%) have been a member since January 1995, that’s 18 years.
    106 Representatives (24.4%) have been a member since January 1997, that’s 16 years.
    123 Representatives (28.3%) have been a member since January 1999, that’s 14 years.
    139 Representatives (32.0%) have been a member since January 2001, that’s 12 years.
    173 Representatives (39.8%) have been a member since January 2003, that’s 10 years.
    199 Representatives (45.7%) have been a member since January 2005, that’s 8 years.
    225 Representatives (51.7%) have been a member since January 2007, that’s 6 years.
    264 Representatives (60.7%) have been a member since January 2009, that’s 4 years.
    349 Representatives (80.2%) have been a member since January 2011, that’s 2 years.
    433 Representatives (99.5%) have been a member since January 2013, that’s 0 years.

    50% have been a Representative for 6 years.
    25% have been a Representative for 16 years.
    10% have been a Representative for 22 years.
    5% have been a Representative for 28 years.
    2% have been a Representative for 36 years.

    1 Senator (1%) has been a member since January 1975, that’s 38 years.
    2 Senators (2%) have been a member since January 1977, that’s 36 years.
    5 Senators (5%) have been a member since January 1979, that’s 34 years.
    6 Senators (6%) have been a member since January 1981, that’s 32 years.
    8 Senators (8%) have been a member since January 1985, that’s 28 years.
    13 Senators (13%) have been a member since January 1987, that’s 26 years.
    16 Senators (16%) have been a member since January 1993, that’s 20 years.
    26 Senators (26%) have been a member since January 1997, that’s 16 years.
    28 Senators (28%) have been a member since January 1999, that’s 14 years.
    32 Senators (32%) have been a member since January 2001, that’s 12 years.
    38 Senators (38%) have been a member since January 2003, that’s 10 years.
    43 Senators (43%) have been a member since January 2005, that’s 8 years.
    53 Senators (53%) have been a member since January 2007, that’s 6 years.
    64 Senators (64%) have been a member since January 2009, that’s 4 years.
    83 Senators (83%) have been a member since January 2011, that’s 2 years.
    99 Senators (99%) have been a member since January 2013, that’s 0 years.

    Can’t see a reason for term limits.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  9. rudderpedals says:

    Term limit popularity is like congressional popularity: Everyone else’s rep sucks and needs to be term limited, but not mine.

    How do Virginians like having a governor limited to one term? It seems such a short term is an invitation to exploit the office for all its worth.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. Caj says:

    There should be an age limit for all these folks! Still working at eighty or ninety years old is admirable but they should be made to retire at a certain age. We need younger people to come in with new fresh ideas. It no longer for some I feel a job, it’s just a place where they show up and get paid regardless whether they get anything done. That is a disgrace.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  11. @Matt Bernius:

    Well, libertarianism is as much about restraining government in the name of protecting liberty as it is democratic choice, perhaps even more so. Arguably, term limits help to limit the growth of government by making it difficult for incumbents to acquire the kind of power that allows them to spend public money for the benefit of special interests. Thus, they are perfectly consistent with libertarianism, although I wouldn’t argue that they are required.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 3

  12. Ernieyeball says:

    Term limits are in the US Constitution. They are called elections.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  13. Gustopher says:

    That’s nearly 80 years in which a father and son have represented essentially the same geographic area of Michigan in Congress.

    He has two sons and two daughters, so let’s hope they get an entire century out of this.

    Term limits my ass. If the voters want to keep sending the same guy back to Washington, they should be able to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  14. @Andre Kenji:

    On the other hand, and I don´t want to sound ageist, the Congress is not a nursing home. Mandatory retirement after certain age would not be a bad idea.

    More easily, they could just do a better job kicking people out when they stop showing up, so we don’t get these people who are “Senators”, but only show up once or twice a year when they get wheeled into to make some big show vote.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Caj says:

    @Gustopher:

    No one is talking about your ass! Term limits are what is in question. Some never know when enough is enough and voters are just as stupid to keep putting some of those old fossils back in office time after time.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  16. Ernieyeball says:

    I state again that Constitutionally imposed term limits restrict citizens political freedom.
    The voters of Illinois elected Paul Simon to a seat in the US House of Representatives for 5 terms because they wanted him there and they had the political freedom to do so.
    Apparently term limit advocates do not think that the electors (myself included) who sent him to Washington were not smart enough to make that decision for themselves and should have had their political freedom regulated to force Mr. Simon off the ballot.
    Just how far down the the political ladder will these term limits be imposed? Will there be Federal directives to curtail the terms of state and local candidates?
    I do recall that about 30 years ago some candidates for the State Legislature in Missouri ran and won advocating for term limits for their own offices. Several elections later some of them were still assembling in Jefferson City having been voted in multiple times. When asked what happened to their term limit pledges they said they could better serve their constituents by staying in office.
    I have searched high and low for the names and dates of these Term Limit Tramps but I can not find a link. I am relying on my fading memory.
    Apparently the voters in Marion, Illinois don’t know whats good for them either as they have returned Bob Butler to City Hall as Mayor since 1963.
    I also remember that as President Regan approached the end of his second term more than a few political sages thought it would be a great idea to repeal the 22nd Amendment so he could run again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. Matt Bernius says:

    Ok folks, why the heck is @Doug Mataconis’ justification being down-voted?

    Is this some sort of “no true scotsman” thing?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. We have term limits, they’re called elections. They happen every two, four, or six years for federal officials.

    This country survived for 159 years without any term limit for federal officeholders. Our esteemed founding fathers saw no need for term limits, why should we have them now?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  19. @Ernieyeball:

    I’m not a big fan of the idea of the “indispensable man”, which I think is dangerous to Democracy. That is, the idea that there are specific individual people that the country simply would be unable to function without. Paul Simon may have done a great job representing Illinois, but there’s hundreds of other people who would have done exactly as great a job as him. The degree to which politics is becoming an almost a hereditary aristocracy is not healthy to our Republic.

    It’s also ironic how people who normally recognize the danger of concentrating power in the hands of small groups of individuals don’t see any problem of doing so within congress.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. Ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: but there’s hundreds of other people who would have done exactly as great a job as him.

    Hundreds? OK, name 50.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  21. Moosebreath says:

    @Matt Bernius:

    I didn’t downvote Doug, but it rings very false to me. He argues that “libertarianism is as much about restraining government in the name of protecting liberty”, in support of a restriction on individual liberty (limiting who can run for office and who voters can vote for) which is imposed by the government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. @Ernieyeball:

    My whole point is that we have no idea who the other 50 are because they never became a representative and we never heard of them. Are you seriously going to argue that of the more than 600,000 people who were in Paul Simon’s district you couldn’t find 50 that would have been just as good as him at being a congressional representative? That he was so singularly superlative that not even the top 0.01% of his district could hope to compete with this demi-god?

    That kind of idolatry makes me want to barf.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Why is it so many people want to tell me who I can and who I can not vote for?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  24. @Moosebreath:

    He argues that “libertarianism is as much about restraining government in the name of protecting liberty”, in support of a restriction on individual liberty (limiting who can run for office and who voters can vote for) which is imposed by the government.

    Do you have an individual liberty to have a particular person representing you in congress? I’ve never once voted for Jim Gerlach. Does that mean I’m being oppressed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Moosebreath says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “Do you have an individual liberty to have a particular person representing you in congress? I’ve never once voted for Jim Gerlach. Does that mean I’m being oppressed?”

    Nope — you have an individual liberty in being able to vote for him if you choose to do so. Doug is supporting a restriction on you not being able to do so, even if you want to.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  26. @Moosebreath:

    My point is that voting is by it’s nature a collective action; no matter how it is done, there are a significant number of people in any district that will not be able to get the person they want to represent them. If not being able to get the person you want to represent you is by itself enough to qualify as an infringement on individual liberty, than anything other than direct democracy is an infringement on individual liberty.

    There are all sorts of restrictions on who I’m allowed to vote for. Why would this particular one be a worse infringement than, say, the fact I’m prevented from voting in my state’s primaries unless I agree to swear allegiance to two parties I want nothing to do with?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: That kind of idolatry makes me want to barf.

    Be sure you hit the toilet and not get it all over yer shoes.

    demi-god

    I met him . He was.
    At least as much as our Founding Fathers were according to T. Jefferson.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Moosebreath says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “There are all sorts of restrictions on who I’m allowed to vote for.”

    Not really, given how false your only example is. You’re able to vote for anyone, whether on the ballot or not (see write-in voting). However, Doug is supporting limiting that choice, by preventing you from voting for a term-limited incumbent.

    “Why would this particular one be a worse infringement than, say, the fact I’m prevented from voting in my state’s primaries unless I agree to swear allegiance to two parties I want nothing to do with?”

    An allegiance you can change on a moment’s notice by filling out a single sheet of paper? Pardon me for saying so, but that’s not exactly a deep lifetime commitment, nor a onerous requirement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. @Moosebreath:

    It’s a lie. Why should I have to lie about what I believe in order to vote?

    But there are plenty of other restrictions. I’m not allowed to vote if I’m too young. I’m not allowed to vote for someone who is themselves too young. I’m not allowed to vote for someone who lives outside the district. I’m not allowed to vote for a non U. S. Citizen. etc.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. Moosebreath says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    “I’m not allowed to vote if I’m too young. I’m not allowed to vote for someone who is themselves too young. I’m not allowed to vote for someone who lives outside the district. I’m not allowed to vote for a non U. S. Citizen. etc.”

    The first is not a restriction on who you can vote for.

    The second and fourth are, but are written into the Constitution. If you want to change the restrictions by amendment, you’d have my support.

    The third is not true. There have been several persons elected to Congress over the centuries who did not live in their district.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  31. Ernieyeball says:

    @Stormy Dragon: but there’s hundreds of other people who would have done exactly as great a job as him.

    …we have no idea who the other 50 are…

    Since you don’t know who they are (the “hundreds”, i.e. at least 200). How do you know they would do “exactly as great a job as him.”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. Andre Kenji says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    More easily, they could just do a better job kicking people out when they stop showing up

    Many of these people are showing up, and many of them are pretty honorable people that deserves a honorable retirement.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. Ernieyeball says:

    All you Term Limit Freaks need to get in touch with this guy.

    The issue of term limits has trailed Salmon throughout his career. Back in the 1990s, he pledged to serve only three terms and actually followed through on that promise, retiring from Congress in 2001. But when his replacement, then-Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., opted to run for the Senate in 2012, Salmon came back, saying term limits only worked if they applied to everyone.

    http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/04/24/four-term-congressman-introduces-constitutional-amendment-for-term-limits#comments

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. Andre Kenji says:

    Term limits are a bad idea, mainly because they would decrease the number of Democrats in Red States and Republicans in Blue States. A guy like Jim Matheson can create his own brand to be elected in Utah, a generic Democrat could not do that. Besides that, freshmen politicians are more dependent of out of state money.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  35. @Ernieyeball:

    Simple probability. As much as we like to think of ourselves as unique individuals, the fact is that with 7 billion of us on the planet, pretty much anyone of us has a huge number of people who could be stuck in our place and nobody would notice the slightest difference. If Albert Einstein had died in a childhood accident, somebody else would still have come up with the theory of relativity, and probably at nearly the same time, and today people would talk about how intelligent people are by comparing them to, say, Maurice Solovine.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Moosebreath: Doug’s definition of libertarianism:
    “It’s libertarian if it leads to a result that I approve of.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  37. [...] as I said in my post earlier this week about Dingell’s less than admirable record, I favor the idea of term limits. A limit of 24 years each for both the House and the Senate would [...]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0