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Dingell with President Kennedy
Dingell sworn in by Speaker Rayburn in 1955

John David Dingell, Jr. (born July 8, 1926) is a Democratic United States Representative from Michiganmarker and is currently the Dean of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is the longest serving Representative and the third longest serving Congressman ever. Since 1955, he has represented a district that was first in western Detroitmarker but has successively moved further into that city's western suburbs, currently Michigan's 15th congressional district. Currently Dingell is the longest-serving member of the House and second longest-serving member of Congress, after Senator and President pro tempore Robert Byrd of West Virginiamarker.


Congressional career

Dingell was born in Colorado Springs, Coloradomarker and is of Polishmarker and Scots-Irish descent. He is married to Deborah Insley Dingell. His father, John D. Dingell, Sr. (1894–1955), represented Michigan's 15th district from 1933 to 1955.

In Washington, D.C.marker, John, Jr. attended Georgetown Preparatory Schoolmarker and then the House Page School when he served as a page for the U.S. House of Representatives from 1938 to 1943. In 1944, at the age of 18, Dingell joined the United States Army. He rose to the rank of Second Lieutenant and received orders to take part in the first wave of a planned invasion of Japan in November 1945; the Congressman has said President Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb to end the war saved his life.

He then attended Georgetown Universitymarker in Washington, D.C., where he graduated with a law degree in 1952. He was a lawyer in private practice, a research assistant to U.S. Circuit Court judge Theodore Levin, a Congressional employee, a forest ranger, and assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne Countymarker until 1955, when John, Sr. died and John, Jr. won a special election to succeed him.

He won a full term in 1956 and has been reelected 26 times, including a run in 2006 with no major opponent. Between them, he and his father have represented the southeastern Michigan area for more than 75 years.

His district was numbered as the 15th District from 1955 to 1965, when redistricting merged it into the Dearbornmarker-based 16th District; in the primary that year, he defeated 16th District incumbent John Lesinski, Jr.

In 2002, redistricting merged Dingell's 16th District with the Washtenaw Countymarker and western Wayne Countymarker-based 13th District, represented by fellow Democrat Lynn Rivers, whom Dingell also bested in the Democratic primary. The current 15th District ([47235]) includes Wayne County suburbs generally southwest of Detroit, the Ann Arbormarker and Ypsilantimarker areas in Washtenaw County, and all of Monroe County. For many years, Dingell represented much of western Detroit itself, though Detroit's declining population and the growth of its suburbs has pushed all of Detroit into the districts of fellow Democrats John Conyers and Carolyn Kilpatrick.

Dingell has always won reelection by double-digit margins, although the increasing conservatism of the white suburbs of Detroit since the 1970s led to several serious Republican challenges in the 1990s. He has won his last two elections, however, with over 70 percent of the vote. With the retirement of Jamie L. Whitten, the death of William Natcher, and the defeat of Texas congressman Jack Brooks at the start of a new Congress in January 1995, he became the Dean of the United States House of Representatives even though fellow congressman Sidney Yates had served non-consecutive terms earlier than Dingell. He is one of three people to serve in the House for 50 years, the others being Whitten and Carl Vinson. On February 14, 2006, Dingell surpassed Vinson to become the second-longest serving member of the House in history.

Dingell was honored at the White Housemarker with a Presidential lunch for his 50th anniversary in Congress on December 13, 2005.

On December 15, 2005, on the floor of the House, Rep. Dingell read a poem that was sharply critical of, among other things, Fox News, Bill O'Reilly and the so-called "War on Christmas." [47236]

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Dingell brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was ultimately dismissed. [47237]

Dingell announced on March 26, 2008 that he would run for a 28th term in the November 2008 election. After winning re-election, he surpassed Whitten's record for longest tenure in the House on February 11, 2009. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm declared February 11, 2009 to be John Dingell Day in honor of the record.

Energy and Commerce chairman

During his first stint as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Dingell was regarded by analysts as one of the four or five most powerful members of the House.

Dingell is well known, and often feared, for his vigorous approach to oversight. Rumor has it he has hung a portrait of the Earth near his committee's hearing room, and points to it when asked about his committee's jurisdiction. He has subpoenaed numerous high government officials to testify before the committee and grilled them for hours. Insisting that all who testify before his committee do so under oath, thus exposing them to perjury charges if they didn't tell the truth, he and his committee have uncovered numerous instances of corruption and waste, such as the use of $600 toilet seats at the Pentagonmarker. He also takes credit for forcing the resignations of many Environmental Protection Agency officials, and for sending many Food and Drug Administration officials to jail.

After serving as the committee's ranking Democrat for 12 years, Dingell regained the chairmanship in 2007. According to Newsweek, he wants to investigate the Bush Administration's handling of port security, the Medicare prescription drug program and Dick Cheney's energy task force. Time magazine has stated that he intends to oversee legislation that addresses global warming and climate change caused by carbon emissions from automobiles, energy companies and industry (citation: June 2007 issue, Time magazine).

Dingell lost the chairmanship for the 111th Congress to Congressman Henry Waxman of California in a Democratic Caucus meeting on November 20, 2008. Waxman mounted a challenge against Dingell on grounds that Dingell was stalling certain environmental legislation, which would have tightened vehicle emissions standards—something detrimental to the Big Three automobile manufacturers that constitute a major source of employment in Dingell's district. Dingell was instead given the title of Chairman Emeritus.

Committee assignments

Other membership

  • Board of Trustees for the Nature Conservancy of Michigan

Political views

Dingell is generally classed as a liberal Democrat, and throughout his career he has been a leading congressional supporter of organized labor, social welfare measures and traditional progressive policies. At the beginning of every Congress, Dingell introduces a bill providing for a national health insurance system, the same bill that his father proposed while he was in Congress. Dingell also strongly supported Bill Clinton's managed-care proposal early in his administration.

some issues, though, he reflects the conservative values of his largely Catholic and working-class district. He supported the Vietnam War until 1971. Although he backed the Johnson Administration's civil rights bills, he opposed expanding school desegregation to Detroit suburbs via mandatory busing. He takes a moderately liberal position on abortion. He has worked to balance clean air legislation with the need to protect manufacturing jobs.

An avid sportsman and hunter, he strongly opposes gun control, and is a former board member of the National Rifle Associationmarker. For many years, Dingell has received an A+ rating from the NRA.

The political analyst Michael Barone wrote of Dingell in 2002:
"There is something grand about the range of Dingell's experience and about his adherence to his philosophy over a very long career. He is an old-fashioned social Democrat who knows that most voters don't agree with his goals of a single-payer national health insurance plan but presses forward toward that goal as far as he can. 'It's hard to believe that there was once no Social Security or Medicare', he says. 'The Dingell family helped change that. My father worked on Social Security and for national health insurance, and I sat in the chair and presided over the House as Medicare passed (in 1965). I went with Lyndon Johnson for the signing of Medicare at the Harry S. Truman Library, and I have successfully fought efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare'. Whether you agree or disagree, the social democratic tradition is one of the great traditions in our history, and John Dingell has fought for it for a very long time."


For his conduct regarding environmental issues during the 109th Congress the nonpartisan watchdog group League of Conservation Voters has awarded Dingell its highest rating, 100%. According to the LCV, Dingell voted "pro-environment" on twelve out of twelve issues the group deemed critical; they also praised him for introducing, along with representatives James Oberstar and Jim Leach, an amendment compelling the United States Environmental Protection Agency‎ (EPA) to rescind a directive issued in 2003 by the Bush Administration "requiring EPA staff to get permission from headquarters before protecting 'isolated' water bodies like vernal pools, prairie potholes, playa lakes and bogs," which provide "critical wildlife habitat, store flood water, and protect drinking water supplies." Dingell is also a member of the Congressional Wildlife Refuge Caucus.

Dingell has opposed raising mandatory automobile fuel efficiency standards, which he helped to write in the 1970s. Instead he has indicated that he intends to pursue a regulatory structure that takes greenhouse gas emissions and oil consumption into account.. In a July, 2007 interview with, he said “I have made it very plain that I intend to see to it that CAFE is increased” and pointed out that his plan would have CAFE increases tantamount to those in the Senate bill recently passed. In November 2007, working with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Dingell helped draft an energy bill that would mandate 40% increase in fuel efficiency standards.

In July 2007, Dingell indicated he planned to introduce a new a tax on carbon usage in order to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. The policy has been criticized by some, as polling numbers show voters may be unwilling to pay for the changes. A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that vehicle emissions standards that he supports will not yield any substantial greenhouse gas emissions savings..

Private sector ties

Dingell has drawn criticism for his ties to the automotive industry. The three largest contributors to his campaign for the 2006 election cycle are political action committees, employees, or other affiliates of General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and DaimlerChrysler; since 1989, intermediaries for these corporations have contributed more than $US 600,000 to his campaign. Dingell also holds an unknown quantity, more than $US 1 million, in assets through General Motors stock options and savings-stock purchase programs; his wife, Debbie Dingell, worked as a lobbyist for the corporation until they married, whereupon she moved to an administrative position there. At present Mrs. Dingell is a senior executive at General Motors and vice chair of the General Motors Foundation.On November 11, 2008, American columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about the lack of innovative business culture in American auto industry, singling out Representative John Dingell:

Investigations of alleged scientific fraud

The Baltimore case

In the 1980s Dingell led a series of congressional hearings to pursue alleged scientific fraud by Thereza Imanishi-Kari and Nobel Prize-winner David Baltimore. Although the scientists were later exonerated, the hearings and negative publicity surrounding them forced David Baltimore to resign as president of Rockefeller Universitymarker and caused Imanishi-Kari to lose a tenure-track position.

The story of the case is described in Daniel Kevles' 1998 book The Baltimore Case, in a chapter of Horace Freeland Judson's 2004 book The Great Betrayal: Fraud In Science, and in a 1993 study by Serge Lang, updated and reprinted in his book Challenges (New York: Springer-Verlag; 1997).

Robert Gallo and the controversy on who discovered the AIDS virus

In 1991–1995 Dingell's staff investigated claims that Robert Gallo had used samples supplied to him by Luc Montagnier to fraudulently claim to have discovered the AIDS virus. The report concluded that Gallo had engaged in fraud and that the NIH covered up his misappropriation of work by the French team at the Institut Pasteur. The report contended that:

The report was never formally published as a subcommittee report due to the 1995 change in control of the House from Democrats to Republicans. Other accusations against Gallo were dropped, and while Montagnier's group is considered to be the first to isolate the virus, Gallo's has been recognized as first to prove that this virus was the cause of AIDS.


  2. "About Debbie", Debbie Dingell for Wayne State Board of Governors, accessed 2009-05-22
  3. Congressional website bio
  4. Todd Spangler, "Dingell goes for record by running for 28th term", Detroit Free Press, March 26, 2008.
  5. Henry I. Miller, M.D. (The Hoover Institution), ["Dingell's Grand Inquisitor Politics," Wall Street Journal, 25 November 2008]: accessed 25 November 2008.
  6. What Would Victorious Democrats Do? - Newsweek Politics -
  7. League of Conservation Voters 2006 Scorecard
  8. "The Democrats Lag on Warming" New York Times 10 June 2007
  9. " Auto Chiefs Make Headway Against a Mileage Increase" New York Times 7 June 2007
  11. "An Auto Insider Takes on Climate Change", Time Magazine, May 31, 2007.
  12. "Dems Reach Deal on Energy Bill" Associated Press 1 Dec 2007
  13. Truth in Global Warming -
  15. Center for Responsive Politics
  16. Center for Responsive Politics
  18. “Ethics When Spouses Earn Paychecks,” ‘’Time’’, March 30 1992. retrieved 22 June 2007
  19. Wayne State University retrieved 22 June 2007
  20. The Baltimore Case — ISBN 0-393-04103-4.
  21. Horace Freeland Judson, The Great Betrayal : Fraud in Science, 1st. Ed., 2004
  22. "Science subverted in AIDS dispute" Chicago Tribune 1 Jan 1995

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