"I've been Chairman and Ranking Member of this committee before, and I've done both jobs well," Dingell told The Hill in a statement. "But I just learned of Henry's retirement as I landed at the airport back in Michigan, so I'm going to take a deep breath and look at everything, and from there I'll speak with my colleagues when I return to Washington. I'll make the best decision I can on behalf of the people I'm so blessed to represent in Michigan's 12th District."
Dingell was chairman of the powerful committee until 2009, when Waxman ousted him in a nasty battle for the gavel.
It's unclear whether Dingell, who has twice chaired the committee, could get enough Democratic support to be the committee's ranking member.
Dingell's friendship with the auto industry, past resistance to some environmental regulations and working relationship with House Republicans who've chaired the committee, including a friendship with Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), have led to fights with other Democrats in years past.
Then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) quietly backed Waxman's push to oust Dingell as chairman in 2009, and a decade ago backed a primary challenge against him.
Dingell's statement echoes what his wife told The Hill earlier in the day.
"He's going to take a look at it," Dingell's wife, Debbie, told The Hill as they stepped off the plane late Thursday morning, right after Waxman made his announcement. "You're getting people in real-time — we need to talk to people."
Dingell, 87, is the longest-serving member in House history.
--This post was updated at 3:42 p.m.