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California Rep. Henry Waxman to retire after 40 years in Congress


From the January 31, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published January 31, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California announced yesterday that he will retire from Congress at the end of this year, which will be his 40th year as a member of the House of Representatives.  

A longtime member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman is currently the panel's ranking member. He was influential in the passage of the Clean Air Act, which he helped write. He also is an author of the "Waxman-Markey" cap-and-trade climate change legislation, also known as the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House in 2009 but died in the Senate.

"I first ran for office because I believe government can be a force for good in people’s lives," he said yesterday. "I have held this view throughout my career in Congress.  And I will leave the House of Representatives with my conviction intact.  I have learned that progress is not always easy.  It can take years of dedication and struggle.  But it’s worth fighting for."

The walls of Waxman's Capitol Hill office "are covered with framed copies of bills he authored and pens used by Democratic and Republican presidents to sign into law numerous measures, any one of which might have been considered a capstone by other lawmakers," The Los Angeles Times reported.

The New York Times called the 5' 5" congressman "a diminutive Democratic giant whose 40 years in the House produced some of the most important legislation of the era."

Waxman, who is the latest in a long line of Democratic members of the House who have said they will not run for re-election this year, said he is not leaving out of frustration with Congress. "Even in today’s environment, there are opportunities to make real progress," he said.

However, he deplored "the extremism of the Tea Party Republicans," and said he is "embarrassed that the greatest legislative body in the world too often operates in a partisan intellectual vacuum, denying science, refusing to listen to experts, and ignoring facts."

"It is hard to imagine a Washington environmental community without the wisdom and perspective of Henry Waxman," said Scott Segal, an energy expert with the Bracewell & Giuliani law firm in Washington, D.C.

’While we frequently had policy disagreements with him, there was always a feeling that Mr. Waxman desired to reach agreement that advanced his objectives, even if he had to give on some points," Segal said. "Waxman’s desire to negotiate and reach outcomes with some bipartisan input is a lesson almost completely missed by the current environmental leaders."

Based on seniority, Congressman John Dingell, D-Mich., a former chairman of the House energy committee, is next in line on the committee’s Democratic side, but may not be able to garner enough support in the Democratic Caucus to regain his chairmanship. After Dingell, the next most senior Democrat is Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J. 
 

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Jeanne Wickline LaBella
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