Thursday, November 20, 2008

I saw a news story today reporting that Henry Waxman (D-CA) had edged out John Dingell Jr. (D-MI), in a rather hard-fought campaign, to be the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee for the 111th Congress. An interesting story in its way - it appealed to my wonky nature, especially since it made me worry that Rep. Waxman might relinquish the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform - a job he has performed with zeal and distinction, holding the Administration's feet to the fire whenever circumstances demanded - i.e. pretty much all the time.

But it really set me off when the article reported that Rep. Dingell has served in the house since 1955. "That has to be a typo," I thought, "Maybe they meant 1975." But no, John Dingell has been in the House of Representatives since December 13, 1955 - 2 1/2 weeks before my first birthday and well over half a century ago!

Odder still, the previous occupant of the that Congressional seat had been John Dingell Sr, who held it from 1933 until his death in 1955, when Junior took over. So - the residents of Michigan's 15th/16th (they merged in 2002) Congressional district have been represented by a John Dingell since the dawn of the FDR/New deal era, over 75 years ago.

I am not a fan of legislated term limits, and I have no axe to grind with Rep. Dingell - but there's something about this that strikes me, in a very visceral way, as somehow vaguely un-American, and just plain wrong.

(I do have to note that Henry Waxman has himself been in Congress since 1975, when I was but a sophomore in college - even so, John Dingell Sr/Jr still have 42 years on him.)

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