Rep. Dingell Marks 50 Years in House

Rep. John Dingell

At age 79, Rep. John Dingell is known for his prickly demeanor and blunt words, which have earned him respect. Rep. Dingell's Web Site hide caption

itoggle caption Rep. Dingell's Web Site

John Dingell (D-MI) marks 50 years in the House on Tuesday. Only two others in history have served longer.

Dingell came to Congress in December 1955, when he won a special election to replace his late father. Dingell speaks fondly of working on massive, important legislation he helped shepherd through Congress, including Medicare, food stamps, student loans, consumer product protection and the Endangered Species Act.

There are a few disappointments, Dingell says. In every single Congress for the last 50 years, he has introduced a bill to create a national health care system — and it has never passed. The Patient's Bill of Rights he championed in the 1990s also failed. And now, with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House, Dingell worries they're dismantling the earlier work of his career.

"But you have your choice between sitting back and being depressed and letting it go forward, or standing and fighting," he says. "I choose the second course."

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