Thursday, December 31, 2009
John Dingell is 83 and has been in congress since 1955, longer than anyone currently in the House. He is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where some of the biggest legislative battles get started. From deregulating the telecommunications industry, to relaxing promotional standards for drug companies, to changing the nation's health care laws, this committee's members are often the subjects of intense industry lobbying to ensure committee members of continued strong financial support from some of the country's most powerful companies making this committee among the most desirable in Congress. His two largest individual contributors are the IBEW union and Comcast. Money is no problem for Dingell. As an entrenched career pol he has little or no opposition so he could stay in his seat as long as he lives. In his last five elections he raised about $10 million from lobbies of industries he regulates while his erstwhile opponents raised a total of $19,870. Guess why over 95% of incumbents get reelected.
What qualified John Dingell to be a congressman? He succeeded his father who was in congress. As with all of our other poster children so far he had no private sector experience. Yet, these are the people who regulate every facet of American life. John David Dingell, Jr. attended Capitol Page School, Washington, D.C., and Georgetown Preparatory School, Garrett Park, MD. He was given the job as a page in the House of Representatives, 1938-1943, went into the Army for 2 years and then got a law degree at Georgetown University. As a lawyer, he worked for US Circuit Judge Theodore Levin, 1952-1953.
While not an argument for term limits these votes are just to give an idea of where this poster boy stands on some issues. Not a big fan of Israel, in January 2009 he voted “present” on H. Res. 34 that recognized Israel’s right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza and reaffirmed the United States’ strong support for Israel. He also voted in July 2006 against H RES 921: Condemning the Recent Attacks Against the State of Israel, Holding Terrorists and Their State-Sponsors Accountable for Such Attacks, Supporting Israel’s Right to Defend Itself. Another anti-Israel vote was a NO vote in December 2005 on H RES 575: Providing That Hamas and Other Terrorist Organizations Should Not Participate in Elections Held by the Palestinian Authority.
Of the few times he voted against his party line one was in May 2007 to fund the Iraq war without setting a withdrawal date (HR 2206). Just this month he voted NO to H Res. 915: Encouraging the Republic of Hungary to Respect the Rule of Law, Treat Foreign Investors Fairly, and Promote a Free and Independent Press. The Dems were mostly on the other side of the anti-Israel votes as well as these two votes but according to Open Congress he votes 98% of the time with his party.
Long an advocate of socialized medicine, Dingell's quest for government-run universal health care began in 1932, when his father, John Dingell Sr., was first elected to the House. The elder Dingell was one of the architects of the New Deal. "If you look at the picture of Roosevelt signing Social Security, you'll see a little skinny Pollack with a big broken nose and a mustache standing in back of him — that was my dad," Dingell said in an interview in his office on Capitol Hill last month. "And he was very, very proud of that." They both supported Medicare legislation and now the House version of the FedGov takeover of the country’s healthcare industry will bear the Dingell name as Lead Sponsor.
Dingell: "Nobody is going to be happy with this.” And he is so right. While the Dems are happy to pass this with their current one-party control of FedGov, many are unhappy with several provisions and most Repubs would like to see serious reforms as tort restraint, elimination of coverage mandates and allowing for competition of insurance companies in interstate commerce. This takeover of yet another industry by FedGov looks more like a grab for the enormous power it gives them over the people by making everyone dependent on them for health care. The Repubs, many of whom are for some real health care reform legislation, see only the downside of the “death panels,” rationing of care, greatly increased costs, stifling of innovation, higher taxes, loss of jobs and other economic effects as experienced in other countries as Canada and the UK. So, when it passed the Senate last week the 28-term congressman stood on crutches in the Senate halls and told reporters that lawmakers will have to accept a lot of what they don’t like in order for the bill to become law, no one disagreed with him.
In August at a town hall meeting of constituents Dingell was met by angry protests over health care legislation, spending and taxes. He told journalists, "The last time I had to confront something like this was when I voted for the civil rights bill and my opponent voted against it. At that time, we had a lot of Ku Klux Klan folks and white supremacists and folks in white sheets and other things running around." Yeah, sure. The non-partisan National Taxpayers Union rates him “F” denoting him as a “Big Spender” and that was really the thrust of the Town Halls and TEA Party protests. Another poster boy, Harry Reid, took a cue from Dingell and on the floor of the Senate cried about slavery having something to do with opposition to the health care takeover. The contempt these entrenched pols have for their constituents is boundless.
Another one of his ideas that didn’t please anyone was a bill to strip away the mortgage tax deduction on homes over 3000 sq. ft. He calls them “McMansions.” His motivation is perceived by some as envy-driven but it is of a piece with his socialistic inclinations. He was also on the losing side on congress-mandated fuel standards for cars that he knew would hurt the auto industry in Michigan. Which it did, of course. But at least on this one issue he took the side of the free market.
Isn’t it obvious that we need fresh blood in our national legislature? Sen. Jim DeMint has proposed a constitutional amendment that would limit terms of the US Congress. The time has come to get our country back to representative government by citizen legislators with real life experience. We must rid the FedGov of “the scourge of the 20th century –the professional politician,” as Paul Johnson has written in Modern Times. It is infinitely worse in the 21st century. You can help by signing the petiton at www.termlimits.org