House photo of U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan)
WASHINGTON - A lunch with ex-staffers, dinner with a few family friends - an otherwise quiet Friday on Capitol Hill.
That's how John David Dingell Jr. plans to celebrate day 20,997 on the job as a congressman: low key. It belies the fact that, as of 12:01 this morning, the Dearborn Democrat officially became the longest-serving member of Congress ever.
Midnight did come with at least one high-placed attaboy - from President Obama, who said "John has always worked tirelessly for people" helping to "pass some of the most important laws of the last half-century, from Medicare to the Civil Rights Act to the Clean Air Act to the Affordable Care Act."
Dingell, 86, beat the record previously held by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. If nothing else, Dingell - whose service dates back to before Alaska and Hawaii were states - will be happy that the record rests again with a House member instead of in the Senate.
He's always been a House man, after all.
For the record, Dingell's got no plans on leaving, though he hasn't yet committed to a 30th full 2-year term either. He's been on the job since Dec. 13, 1955, after being elected to replace his dad.
Congress being Congress, the House is out of session today, meaning there won't be any lengthy floor statements or speeches. House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders will hold a fete in Dingell's honor on Thursday, in National Statuary Hall in the Capitol.
Meanwhile, the week has been a typical one in many ways: He worked to collect signatures on a letter calling for tough restrictions on currency manipulation in the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. In a subcommittee meeting, he chided Republican chairman John Shimkus of Illinois for introducing a coal ash bill Dingell called "a prodigious waste of time."
"On this historic week being lectured by you is a true honor," Shimkus told Dingell with a smile.
On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden stopped by Dingell's office to chat, bringing a clock as a gift. It was lost on no one that when Biden began his own 36 years of service in the Senate, in 1973, Dingell had already been in the House for 18 years.
Today, Dingell will cap a week during which he has been on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" by taking part in a forum being thrown by the Atlantic before heading to the luncheon thrown by ex-staffers in the Energy and Commerce Committee room, where he long served as chairman.
Then, said his wife Debbie, it's a quiet dinner with a few friends - she won't say who but one's a former U.S. secretary of state - before they head back to Michigan for the weekend on Saturday.
By Todd Spangler, Detroit Free Press Washington staff