Fedblog FedblogFedblog
Government Executive Editor in Chief Tom Shoop, along with other editors and staff correspondents, look at the federal bureaucracy from the outside in.

Dingell Letters and the History Books

ARCHIVES
J. Scott Applewhite/AP

The towering Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., who as of Friday is the longest-serving lawmaker in U.S. history (57 years) has for decades struck terror in the hearts of agency managers with his famed “Dingell letters.”

In an appearance at Atlantic Media Friday morning for “Atlantic Live,” the longtime chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee explained the secret to composing an effective letter as part of the congressional oversight process. “It takes an honest sense of social justice and outrage, along with the great English words who, how, why, and when, rather than starting a nasty argument,” Dingell told moderator Steve Clemons. “You can stop a lot more rapscallions in government with questions than by going out and breaking heads.”

Dingell, who has a long record of legislating for environmental protections while also backing a strong automobile industry, shared a few other secrets and observations:

  • The current Congress is “the most snarled-up Congress I’ve ever served in, but it’s still a privilege.”
  • The gridlock is the fault both of Congress and “the people who put up with it by sending us here not to compromise but to fight.”
  • The Tea Party is “smart as all get-out” because its plan to control Congress “is working,” but its newcomers “don’t understand how the system can and should work.”
  • As committee chairman, he always became good friends with the ranking Republican.
  • The only member of Congress of who he was ashamed of was Sen. Joe McCarthy, R-Wis.
  • The most important vote he ever took was for the 1964 Civil Rights bill, which “almost cost me my job.”
  • Passage of the updates to the Clean Air Act showed “government working as it should, and that compromise is honorable.”
  • Today’s Congress focuses too much on “events of today or tomorrow and not six months or 10 years ahead.”
  • The institutions of government “are more important than any single individual or issue.”

Charlie Clark joined Government Executive in the fall of 2009. He has been on staff at The Washington Post, Congressional Quarterly, National Journal, Time-Life Books, Tax Analysts, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and the National Center on Education and the Economy. He has written or edited online news, daily news stories, long features, wire copy, magazines, books and organizational media strategies.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.