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Dynasty on the Hill

Two generations of Dingells is more than enough.

Mar 10, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 25 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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The 1995 Republican takeover of the House ended Dingell’s chairmanship, leading many to speculate he would retire. He held on instead and that same year became the dean of the House, a symbolic position reserved for the most senior member, a sort of parting gift at the end of a career. But when Democrats finally won back the House in 2006, Dingell took the helm at Energy and Commerce once more. 

Big John’s second reign was brief. In 2009, California rival Henry Waxman successfully challenged him for the chairmanship. At that point, what was left but a place in the record books? Last year, he surpassed the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia for the longest congressional tenure in history.

Dingell stuck around long enough to be remembered not as a partisan attack dog but as Congress’s conscience, protector of the traditions and sensibilities of the people’s house. Yet in these terribly partisan times, the burden of holding the moral high ground has become too much. Which is why his wife, the 60-year-old former auto industry lobbyist Debbie Dingell, has announced she’ll be running for her husband’s (and father-in-law’s) seat. The Dingells, a Washington institution, live on.

Michael Warren is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.

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