In other words: a Legend. With a capital "L".
I have had the great fortune to speak with Representative Dingell on a couple of different occasions - the first being the convention in Denver in '08, and the best being a few days after he had gaveled the House health care bill to passage last year. We had a good chat about what may happen with the bill in the Senate, I thanked him for his work and his service on this and many other issues, and you know what he did? He told me it was a great honor to serve - and then he proceeded to give a lot of the credit for movement on health care to Nancy Pelosi. Realizing the rumored friction between the two, I was a bit surprised to hear this. Paraphrasing here: "We've had our differences in the past, but she did an exceptional job of rounding everyone up and getting this though". And he continued on after that. Nothing but praise for the Speaker - and that is the hallmark of a class act, being able to applaud a victory for one who had seemingly been a rival.
Dingell, 83, had serious knee surgery in 2008 and often uses crutches and a cranberry-colored electric scooter to keep up with the hectic schedule on Capitol Hill. He rarely misses votes: he missed 3.6 percent of votes this term, putting him in the middle of the Michigan delegation.
Dingell rebounded after losing his chairmanship, proving to be a trusted and heavily relied-upon team player by House Democratic leadership. He carries the title "chairman emeritus" of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
Even without the chairman's gavel, his influence has been felt during this high-stakes term for Michigan and its automakers.
He helped stabilize the auto industry, and helped push through the cash-for-clunkers program and the health care bill.
Best wishes for long life and good health to the Congressman - and profound gratitude for the many years of service. They don't make 'em quite like that anymore.