WASHINGTON — Rep.
During a congressional career that began when
Among his legislative victories was the 2010
Often assailed by
His California colleague, Rep.
His highest-profile hearing came in 1994, when he summoned the heads of the nation’s tobacco companies to a televised session on the dangers of smoking. The public testimony by the chief executives, in which they claimed not to believe cigarettes were addictive, became a "turning point in our national history," Waxman later wrote in a book with Joshua Green, “The Waxman Report: How
Fifteen years later, President
Waxman's retirement likely will set off a scramble of politicians seeking to represent his heavily Democratic 33rd District. In addition to being a relatively safe seat, its many wealthy, politically active residents make the district, which runs from Beverly Hills and Malibu down the coast to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, one of country's leading sources of campaign contributions. The ability to steer those donations to fellow lawmakers offers a path to power in the House that Waxman employed actively early in his career and that others will certainly covet.
Two political independents already had announced plans to challenge Waxman this year, but Democratic candidates who would not have run against the incumbent are now likely to enter the race.
In an interview, Waxman, 74, said he had decided, simply, that the time had come to do something else.
"At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years," he said. "If there is a time for me to move on to another chapter in my life, I think this is the time to do it.
"I have run my last campaign," he said.
Waxman's departure will significantly weaken California's clout on Capitol Hill, where seniority still matters. He is the House's sixth-most senior member and the fourth veteran California congressman to head for the exits this year. Along with Miller he was the last of the huge class of Democrats elected in the post-Watergate election of 1974 who are still serving in the House.
On the Republican side, Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon of Santa Clarita, chairman of the
A combination of factors — advancing age, Congress' sorry image, hyper-partisanship, and political burnout — have contributed to the wave of congressional retirements.
But Waxman said that while "there are elements of Congress today that I do not like," he was still enjoying the job. In a written statement to be posted on his official website, he added, "I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon. Public office is not the only way to serve, and I want to explore other avenues while I still can."
He expressed confidence that he would have won reelection had he run again — something most political handicappers agree on — but lamented the amount of time that he would spend campaigning and fundraising.
In 2012, Waxman survived an $8-million challenge from a deep-pocketed independent candidate in a newly drawn district that brought him his first real contest in years. He won with 54% of the vote.
Waxman’s career in elected office began in 1968 when, at age 29, he won a seat in the California Assembly. The son of ardent, New Deal Democrats, he was elected when
Along with his friend and fellow lawmaker
"I hoped to be able to serve 20 years and leave a mark on some important issues," he said in his statement Thursday.
“I never imagined I would be in the House for 40 years and be able to advance every issue I care deeply about. But in what feels like a blink of an eye, it has been 40 years, and I've devoted most of my life to the
Along the way, Waxman developed a reputation for shrewdness and legislative skill. He once thwarted an effort to weaken clean-air rules by offering 600 amendments, which he wheeled into a committee room in a shopping cart.
He was also known for a willingness to elbow rivals out of his way. Early on, he won a key subcommittee chairmanship with jurisdiction over health laws, pushing a more senior lawmaker aside with the help of Democrats for whom he had raised campaign funds. Then, in 2008, with a Democrat in the
Waxman and Dingell, who represents a Detroit-area district heavy with automakers, had long fought over clean-air legislation, but in this battle, advocates of health reform pointed to Dingell's age, saying he lacked the stamina for what was certain to be a long and complex fight.
In the Democratic caucus that decided on the chairmanship, Rep.
Holding up a bag of potato chips, Schakowsky said, "There is a nutrition label on the bag that we all know and take for granted. Henry Waxman wrote the law that puts these labels on the bag."
Lifting a bottle of pills, she said, "Henry Waxman wrote the law that created the generic drug industry." Then displaying an apple, she said, "Henry Waxman wrote the law that removed dangerous pesticide from apples and other foods."
In his statement, Waxman said that while he has been frustrated at times, "I am not leaving out of frustration with Congress. Even in today's environment, there are opportunities to make real progress.''
Still, he complained about the “extremism of the
Waxman said he hasn't decided on his plans after Congress.