‘Chairmonster’ Dingell, Master Federal Regulator, Retires

by John Fund

Democratic congressman John Dingell of Michigan, who for many years was the feared “chairmonster” of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, is retiring after 58 years in Congress. Last June he surpassed the late U.S. senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia as the longest-serving member of Congress ever.

John Dingell was a walking advertisement for term limits. Until 1995, he chaired a behemoth that had jurisdiction over everything from health care to telecommunications to food safety and energy policy. When Dingell was once asked to define its scope, he pointed to a photo of the Earth behind his desk and smiled. It says a lot about the lurch to the left of national Democrats that when they took back control of the House in 2007, Dingell was blocked from reclaiming his gavel after losing to an even more extreme regulator, Representative Henry Waxman of California (who is also retiring this year after 40 years in Congress).

The seat may stay in Dingell family hands, where it has been since John Dingell’s father held the seat from 1932 to 1955, after which his son took over. The Detroit Free Press reports that “John Dingell’s wife, Deborah, is widely considered a possible candidate.” If she won the Democratic primary, Mrs. Dingell, a former top lobbyist for General Motors, would be a shoo-in in the heavily Democratic territory surrounding the city of Dearborn.