John Dingell leaving an ‘obnoxious’ Congress -- after six decades

Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) prepares for an interview in Washington on Nov. 7, 2009.
(Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images)
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For many politicians partaking of this retirement season, the stated reasons for leaving have reeked of the common excuse that has someone leaving a job to spend more time with his — or most of the time, her -- family. Touching, maybe, but comes off a bit insincere.

Henry A. Waxman pulled the plug on four decades on Capitol Hill with no public anger at the dysfunctional mess that is Congress, made all the more maddening when, like the West Los Angeles Democrat, you’re in a distinct minority.

“At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years,” Waxman said late last month when he announced his pending departure. “If there is a time for me to move on to another chapter in my life, I think this is the time to do it.”


Weeks earlier, Northern California’s George Miller announced his retirement at the end of this term by focusing on what he called a “helluva run.”

“It’s a sense of accomplishment,” Miller, a Democrat, said in an interview. “When I ran in 1974, I said I was going to try to do two things: I was going to try to stop the Vietnam War and do national healthcare reform.”

When Obamacare passed, he said, “it was really a jolt to me that this is going to be hard to beat.”

Then there is John D. Dingell, who on Monday announced his departure after this term with a remark that appeared a bit closer to the mark.

“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” the Michigan Democrat said in an interview with the Detroit News. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness, both in Congress and in the streets.”

Dingell’s been in Congress since 1955; Waxman and Miller were elected in 1974. All three started out in the House with youthful bearings; now Dingell is 87, Waxman is 74, Miller is 68


Just counting the three of them — and there are other departures announced as well — nearly 140 years of congressional experience is sweeping out the door, whether driven by obnoxiousness or something more benign.

The departures will scramble leadership posts on the Hill among Democrats anxious to move up into minority posts long held by the elders. But outside the Beltway, little will change: All three seats are strongly Democratic, leaving them out of the battles over the very few seats that could change hands in November.

Twitter: @cathleendecker