WASHINGTON (AP) — A Capitol ceremony honoring Rep. John Dingell for becoming Congress's longest-serving member in history featured the expected, such as praise and jokes from Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner. It included the unexpected — a pointed pitch to a roomful of congressional leaders and lawmakers by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick for controversial immigration legislation.
Yet it was hard to top a performance by singer Mary Wilson backed up by a vaguely synchronized chorus line that included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the actress Lynda Carter.
Wilson, an original member of The Supremes, a marque 1960s group of Detroit-based Motown Records, sang a brief set of songs climaxed with their upbeat hit "Stop in the Name of Love." Pelosi, Sebelius and Carter — along with Dingell's wife, Deborah, and Rep. Donna Edwards, D-Calif. — formed an unlikely dance line behind her, singing and flashing their hands in the classic "stop" signal familiar to generations of partygoers dancing to the tune.
The 45-minute ceremony was aimed at honoring Dingell, who has served 57½ years in the House. The crowd of current and past lawmakers, lobbyist and others and included former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, once an Illinois congressman and colleague of Dingell's.
Dingell, an 86-year-old Michigan Democrat who walks gingerly with a cane, called himself "probably the luckiest man in shoe leather" for his family, friends and career. But he lectured his colleagues about toning down the partisan conflict that often dominates Congress.
"We have too much ill will, too much hatred, too much bitterness, too much anger," he said. He said the word "Congress" means a coming together of people to work together on resolving important issues and added, "We have, I think unfortunately because of the pressures and the times, forgotten this."
With around 400 people gathered in Statuary Hall — the Capitol's original House chamber — Boehner, R-Ohio, said Dingell's legacy will be "working your butt off." In his toast, he called Dingell "a true man of the House."
Biden lampooned his own reputation for long-windedness, warning the audience as he began, "You all should sit." A long-time Senate veteran, Biden lauded Dingell for helping his constituents and ended by saying, "Love you, old buddy."
McCarrick delivered a blessing of Dingell that noted the ethnic diversity of his congressional district and touched on immigration, an issue the Senate is debating and is one of President Barack Obama's top priorities.
"Hopefully, that's why these houses are considering immigration legislation," McCarrick said. "I thought I'd just mention that because I know you want it to happen, too. And we hope that the same kind of strength and devotion to the stranger will be in his heart and the hearts of those who share his responsibility."