Representatives Gary Peters and Candice Miller (Detroit News file)
Washington — President Barack Obama and officials from across the political spectrum hailed U.S. Rep. John Dingell as the nation’s longest-serving member of Congress announced Tuesday he would retire after nearly six decades in office.
Obama called Dingell, D-Dearborn, “one of the most influential legislators of all time.... The people of Michigan — and the American people — are better off because of John Dingell’s service to this country.”
The president said Dingell “risked his seat to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, fought to pass Medicare in 1965, and penned legislation like the Clean Air Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Endangered Species Act that have kept millions of Americans healthy and preserved our natural beauty for future generations.”
Obama also praised Dingell’s “tireless fight to guarantee quality, affordable health care for every American,” a nod to the congressman’s long advocacy for universal health care, and his help in getting the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.
Vice President Joe Biden also praised Dingell and said the “House and the American people are losing a great public servant.”
“Through 59 years of public service, John fought for what he believed in, and got things done through relationships and his deep respect for others,” Biden said. “And there was no one he respected more than his constituents. He respected their hopes, their dreams, and their values. He has been relentless in his efforts to secure for them the right to live a decent middle-class life. He has always been a staunch advocate for health care for every American, and he has been a player on every significant piece of legislation.”
Gov. Rick Snyder heralded Dingell’s life of public service.
“As the longest-serving member in the history of Congress, Rep. Dingell has shown the unique ability to put politics aside and work across party lines to help improve the quality of life for those he represents. Throughout his distinguished career, he has stood up for working families and worked to strengthen the economy,” Snyder, a Republican, said in a statement.
U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said, “Dingell has had a hand in the greatest array of legislative accomplishments: from protecting civil rights and workers’ rights, to ensuring food safety, to enacting essential consumer protections, to creating jobs in Michigan’s 12th District.”
She called him “a treasured mentor, a cherished colleague and friend, a living legend.”
Dozens of members of Congress joined Pelosi with statements praising Dingell.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., who dethroned Dingell in 2008 to head the Energy and Commerce Committee, said, “His legislative and oversight record is extraordinary. He has been an exceptional leader on health care and energy policy and has made America a healthier and more prosperous nation.”
“He has been a role model for me and generations of members, for which I will always be grateful,” Waxman said.
House members from Michigan also praised Dingell.
“Whether you measure by years of service, laws passed or service to constituents, the United States Congress will never again see a legislator leave as an indelible a mark as John D. Dingell,” said Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
Rep. Candice Miller, R-Harrison Township, saluted Dingell, saying: “John Dingell is truly a giant in the history of the United States Congress.”
She added: “He has stood strong for civil rights and voting rights, helping our country finally fulfill its creed of equality for everyone. And without question, he has been a stalwart fighter for Michigan.”
Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, also heralded Dingell.
“One of the greatest honors of my life has been to serve in Congress with John Dingell,” he said. “Through my first term in Congress, I couldn’t have asked for a better friend, role model and mentor. I’ve always been able to confide in Chairman Dingell, and have many times sat with him in his respective seat on the floor of the House of Representatives to seek his counsel and advice. Simply put, his perseverance, experience and resolve are unmatched.”
Former Rep. Mark Schauer, who is running for governor of Michigan, added: “John Dingell’s service to the people of Michigan will endure for generations, long after he leaves the House of Representatives. The chairman’s work can be seen in Michigan’s clean air and water, in the auto factories that employ thousands of Michigan workers, and through the quality health care that his work made available to our kids, families and seniors.”
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Detroit, praised Dingell as well.
“John Dingell is a supreme fighter for working men and women who has built a record of accomplishment second to none. I have known no better person in government during my 35 years in Congress,” Levin said.
Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, called Dingell “a pillar of unique strength for Michigan and the entire nation in the U.S. House of Representatives.”
“His exceptional combination of legislative prowess and a deep respect for those individuals whom he prided in representing in Congress stands as a model of public service,” the congressman said. “His legislative accomplishments will be well recorded in the history books as they have touched every aspect of modern life.”
The Detroit Regional Chamber’s president and CEO, Sandy K. Baruah said Dingell’s retirement is a loss for the country.
“While perhaps no public servant has better earned wonderful retirement years, Rep. John Dingell’s pending retirement is a true loss for Michigan and the nation,” Baruah said.
“Congress today is bereft of leaders providing adult supervision — who can reach across the aisle and find common ground,” he said. “John Dingell has been more than a member of Congress. He has been a friend, a gentleman and a statesman.”
Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Dingell “fought for public servants, for seniors, for working families, for sportsmen and for women, and for the auto industry.
“His tenure in Congress has been one long battle to protect and defend all of us. ... Thank you for being the most noble mentor one could have,” Granholm said. “You will be sorely, deeply missed.”
Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan, said: “Dingell was a champion for progressive causes like the Affordable Health Care Act, and thanks to his hard work, thousands of Michiganders can now enjoy the comfort and security of having health care coverage.
“As someone who grew up and still lives in Congressman Dingell’s district, I know that his service to our state and his constituents is unrivaled,” Scott said. “Thank you, congressman, for all you have done, your statesmanship will be sorely missed.”