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.