Democratic Representative Henry A. Waxman of California, regarded by many to be one of the most successful and prolific congressmen in recent history, has announced his retirement will take place when Congress closes this session.
Saying that forty years has passed very quickly, the 74-year-old representative said that while he was very satisfied with many of the accomplishment made in Congress, there was still more to be done. Waxman said that it is time for him to move on while he and his family are still in good health.
Inside his office suite in the Rayburn building is a collection of pens used by every Chief Executive since President Carter. Each pen was used to sign legislative bills that Waxman helped to draft. Included among those documents were laws making safer, more nutritious formula for infants, bringing low-priced generic drugs into the market place, allowing for cleaner air, and providing medical services for those suffering from AIDS. Waxman also helped to draft legislation that would reform and modernize the United States Postal Service and was a key player in passing the Affordable Health Care Act.
The longtime Congressman is quick to point out that every bill he ever helped pass into law, with the exception of the Affordable Health Care Act, had support on both sides of Congress. He says that Republicans should have supported the Affordable Health Care Act and only refused to do so to keep from handing a victory to President Obama. He says the law was based on ideas that originally came from Republicans.
Waxman was known to be incredibly aggressive in his position on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. He took the lead on investigations into steroid use by professional sports players, marketing methods in the tobacco industry, the 2008 Wall Street collapse, and the flawed information used for justification of the war in Iraq.
Waxman was insistent that his decision to leave Congress was not due to any frustration over the current political climate in Washington, D.C. He also said that his departure did not have anything to do with the speculation by many political pundits that Democrats will lose control of the House in the midterm elections later this year.
With the retirement of Waxman and another California congressman, George Miller, comes the end of an era. Miller announced his plans for retirement recently as well. Both men are the last two House Democrats currently serving that came out of the group elected in 1974, a few short months after the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon. That particular group of Congressmen were said at the time to be a reform minded group that would transform Washington. In their first years in office, they unseated three committee chairmen from their own party who were resistant to making any changes. They also helped in the passage of laws designed to give more authority to Congress on both national security and domestic issues.
In 1980, the political influence swung back toward the Republicans with the election of Ronald Reagan. However, Waxman still found ways to aid in the expansion of programs such as Medicaid and Medicare even while Reagan was acting against social programs and cutting taxes.
One noted congressional scholar said that many of Waxman’s crowning political achievements came during the Reagan era. Waxman has been said to be one who knows how to negotiate and get the things his constituents need, even when serving under a President from the opposing party. His retirement comes after 20 terms in Congress.
By Rick Hope