Rep. Dingell Reflects On Pearl Harbor, Health Care & His Successor In Congress

Feb 7, 2019

Many are remembering the longest-serving Congress member in US history. Michigan Representative John Dingell passed away Thursday at the age of 92.


Dingell was first elected to fill his father’s House seat in 1955.

In 2014, Rep. Dingell spoke to WKAR’s Mark Bashore about his push for healthcare and his wife Debbie succeeding him in his district. We start with his reflections on being at the US Capitol on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Bashore: "You were a House page on the House Floor on December 8, 1941 with your father Congressman John Dingell when you both heard President Roosevelt declare war on Japan. How well do you remember that?"

Dingell: "That was something you do not forget! It was by no means certain that we were going to win that war. The Japanese had just sunk the entire Pacific fleet of the United States. The United States was seeing all of its allies in the Pacific getting the daylights beatin' out of them by the Japanese. The United States was confronting massive, massive problems in Europe. It was a terrible, terrible, terrible time. So I have to say even though I was not in Congress while Roosevelt was there, I watched it very closely. Not only through my own eyes but also through Dad's. I have to say of all the presidents, the greatest that I've had any real acquaintance with was frankly, was Franklin Roosevelt."

Bashore: "For decades you wanted national health insurance in this country. In fact, you submitted a proposal for it every year from 1957 for decades. Do you feel the Affordable Care Act is subject to change? Does that concern you?"

Dingell: "The only perfect law I can recall is the Ten Commandments. And very frankly, they were written by the finger of God on a tablet of stone for Moses. It also I have to tell you is something shows how hard it is to get legislation through. If I were to bring the Ten Commandments up in this particular Congress I'd have serious doubts that I could get it through. I think the Affordable Care Act is going to work very well. We have now covered 8-million Americans who have no coverage. We now have seen to it that kids can stay on their parents' carrier until they are 26. We've also seen to it that no longer can they kick you out of the hospital because you get sick; no longer can they deny you health care because you have a pre-existing condition. There are all kinds of things that are in there for the benefit of patients which is after all the reason for health insurance that is to take care of the patient as opposed to making money for the insurance company."

Bashore: "Your wife Debbie is a candidate to replace you in Congress. How do you feel about that? Are you confident she'll prevail and get elected?"

Dingell: "Well, first of all, she is one of the smartest, nicest, most decent women I know. She's probably one of the smartest politicians I've ever met. She's a woman who cares about Michigan's jobs. She has no end of experience to qualify her for that elective office. And frankly, I'm looking forward to voting for her and addressing her as Congresswoman Dingell."

After retiring from a 58-year career in Congress, Dingell’s wife Debbie successfully won her husband’s seat in 2014 and represents the district now.