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Dingell had served as the representative from Michigan’s 15th Congressional District since 1955, when he won a special election to replace his father, John Dingell Sr., a New Deal Democrat who died of tuberculosis while in office. Known as “Big John” and “The Truck” for his forceful nature and his hulking 6-foot-3-inch frame, the younger Dingell rose to become chairman in 1981 of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which handled nearly half of the bills in the House and covered a sprawling policy realm including transportation, consumer affairs and public health.

When asked to define the jurisdiction of his committee, Dingell liked to point at a photograph of the Earth taken from space, He was one of the American auto industry’s most stalwart, influential friends on Capitol Hill, and invariably resisted efforts to regulate car manufacturers, In addition to repeatedly blocking more stringent fuel-efficiency and emissions standards, he staved off efforts to require safety features such as seat belts and air bags, Dingell’s unwavering allegiance to the auto industry drew criticism, especially after his 1981 marriage to Deborah Insley, a senior executive at General Motors and dance shoe covers a member of that company’s founding family, One environmental lobbyist, a longtime foe of Dingell’s, said the congressman was “literally married to General Motors,” a charge Dingell denied..

“I was fighting for autoworkers long before I met Deborah,” he told The Washington Post in 2010. “The fact is that I am not married to the auto industry, but I am elected to represent the people of Michigan and in our part of the country. My people live and die by the success of the auto industry and manufacturing.”. In 1979, he sponsored a bill to prohibit federal spending on passive restraints such as air bags and accused the Transportation Department of concealing evidence that air bags were at risk of exploding and burning passengers. Five years later, he continued to attack the air bag as a “defective instrument” that “does not work except in head-on collisions and only in a fraction of those.”.

“Because of his influence among the Democrats in the House, it was impossible to get a consistent Democratic Party stand over the decades for stronger regulation of the industry,” consumer-safety advocate Ralph Nader said, “So the existing standards became obsolete, and that was fine with him.”, As forceful as he was dance shoe covers about defending Detroit, Dingell was equally known for his aggressive efforts to root out government and corporate fraud as the chairman of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations, He was “an investigative powerhouse,” according to the New York Times, “Everything from nuts and bolts to blood banks, bottled water and cardiac pacemakers are unquestionably safer now because of Dingell’s efforts.”..

His inquiries brought down more than one government official, including lobbyist and former Ronald Reagan adviser Michael Deaver, who was convicted of perjury in 1987 after lying under oath during Dingell’s investigation of illegal influence-peddling. Deaver received a three-year suspended sentence and a $100,000 fine, a punishment Dingell considered too lenient. “An ordinary citizen who steals a Social Security check, goes for a joyride or is caught with a few grams of marijuana goes to jail, but someone of wealth and influence who lies to a grand jury and Congress has little to fear,” he said at the time. “The message is: The powerful can get away with things most people can’t.”.

Dingell’s work on the subcommittee in the 1980s and early ’90s also discovered overbilling by hospitals and corruption within the generic-drug industry, An inquiry during the Reagan years into the withholding of dance shoe covers millions of federal dollars meant to clean up a toxic waste site resulted in the resignation of an Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and Stanford University President Donald Kennedy resigned after revelations before Dingell’s panel that the school used federal money to pay for “research expenses,” including an antique commode, a 72-foot yacht and floral arrangements..

Dingell’s years-long investigation of scientific fraud at the National Institutes of Health led to the rare retraction of a research paper by Nobel laureate David Baltimore but ultimately found no wrongdoing and drew criticism of Dingell as an overzealous witch-hunter. “We do not wear lace on our drawers as we conduct our investigations,” Dingell told the New York Times in 1991. “I’m not paid to be a nice guy. I’m paid to look after the public interest.”.

His continued allegiance to the dance shoe covers auto industry, however, cost him his job as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, In late 2008, outspoken environmental advocate Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, challenged Dingell for the position, calling the Michigan congressman “a determined opponent on clean air, climate change and energy issues.”, Waxman won the narrow race with the help of votes from newly elected Democrats who had been swept into office on the coattails of Obama’s promise of radical change..

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