After 58 Years Of Service, John Dingell To Vacate House Seat

Democratic Rep. John Dingell of Michigan is the longest-serving member in the history of Congress. The 87-year-old announced on Monday that he will step down at the end of this term.

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I n 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on an Alabama bus. "Rock Around the Clock" by Bill Haley and his Comets was a top hit on the music charts, and John Dingell became a member of Congress. Nearly six decades later, the Michigan Democrat, the longest-serving member of Congress is leaving. He announced his retirement yesterday.

Here's NPR's David Welna.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: For more than 82 years, there's been a Democratic congressman named John Dingell from Michigan occupying the same seat - first, the father who died in office in 1955 and then his son by the same name, who's held it ever since. Yesterday, the dean of the House told a Detroit-area Chamber of Commerce this will be his final term.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN DINGELL: Like many of you, I have found great disappointment in this Congress. I want you to know this is not the reason that Debbie and I are leaving the Congress.

WELNA: Dingell said he and his wife, Debbie, simply wanted to enjoy some peace and contentment with those they loved. It may have been a signal that Debbie Dingell would not seek to succeed her husband, as some had expected. But Dingell did lament what he called the bad politics of a Congress that got just 57 bills signed into law last year.

A driving force behind the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, Medicare and aid for Michigan's auto industry, Dingell did have some qualified praise for the new health care law.

DINGELL: I would have had it be rather different and much more sweeping. But it is progress.

WELNA: Dingell also made clear he intends to serve out his final term in office.

DINGELL: I want to give the last that I can assuredly give and the last that I can proudly give.

WELNA: David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.

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