Former Representative John Dingell died Thursday at the age of 92, shortly after entering hospice care and being diagnosed with cancer.
His death was confirmed in a statement released by the office of his wife and successor in Congress Representative Debbie Dingell.
“He was a lion of the United States Congress and a loving son, father, husband, grandfather, and friend. He will be remembered for his decades of public service to the people of Southeast Michigan, his razor-sharp wit, and a lifetime of dedication to improving the lives of all who walk this earth,” the statement said.
Dingell was first elected to Congress in 1955 and soon became revered by members of both parties for his legislative prowess. He played a crucial role in shaping a number of bills in the past century before retiring in 2014 in frustration over the entrenched partisanship that prevailed in his final years in Congress.
“I find serving in the House to be obnoxious,” Dingell said back then. “It’s become very hard because of the acrimony and bitterness.”
Until his death he warned about this divide and growing partisanship existing on Capitol Hill, saying these were troubling times as people “have too much ill-will, too much hatred, too much bitterness, too much anger.”
“Congress means ‘a coming together’, where people come together to work for great causes in which they all have an important interest. … We have, I think, unfortunately, because of the pressure of the times, forgotten this,” he said at an event marking his record as the longest-serving member of Congress in 2013.
Although never serving in the elected Democratic leadership, Dingell wielded immense power mainly due to the fact that he was chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from 1981 to 1995 and again from 2007 to 2009.
He also played a role in creating the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He helped author the Patient’s Bill of Rights provisions in ACA, which prevent insurance companies from denying coverage for children with preexisting conditions.
Many Democrats paid their respects to Dingell, among which included former President Barack Obama, the Clintons and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.