WASHINGTON – "One of the giants of Congress." "A tough partisan, but above all, an institutionalist." "End of an era."
Those were among the reactions Thursday to the announcement by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) that he would be retiring from Congress after 40 years.
Tributes came from environmental and health groups, whose causes Waxman championed, and Democratic allies and Republican adversaries.
"He was a tough partisan, but above all, an institutionalist who was in politics for all the right reasons," said former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who served with Waxman on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. "Few lawmakers had the breadth of legislative accomplishments or made an impact as Henry."
Former Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Valley Village), Waxman's old friend and former political partner, called his impact on health and environmental issues "monumental" and said his retirement would be an "enormous loss for the country and California."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti called Waxman a "legendary lawmaker and one of the finest champions for Los Angeles."
Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Burbank) hailed Waxman as "one of the giants of Congress – smart, strategically savvy, dogged at oversight and a power to be reckoned with – his hand can be seen in almost every domestic achievement of the last few decades."
"Cleaner air, better health and fewer people smoking are just part of his tremendous lung health legacy," said Harold Wimmer, the American Lung Assn.'s national president and chief executive.
Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, noted that Waxman is known as the "dean of the Jewish delegation" because of his championing of Jewish causes.
"This really is the end of an era," said Eric Bauman, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, of which Waxman is the top Democrat and a former chairman, said that despite their differences, he and Waxman had "forged a friendship and respect for one another'' and "have never allowed our principled differences to prevent us from finding common ground where we can."
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, a panel once chaired by Waxman, said that "while I didn't always agree with Chairman Waxman on matters of both policy and oversight tactics, his tenure helming the committee set important precedents and innovated new investigative tools such as the use of subpoenas for closed-door depositions."
Scott Segal, the head of Bracewell & Giuliani's policy resolution group who has appeared before the Energy and Commerce Committee on behalf of oil and natural gas developers, refiners, utilities and chemical manufacturers, said that although he often disagreed with Waxman, "there was always a feeling that Mr. Waxman desired to reach a deal that advanced his objectives, even if he had to give on some points."
"Frankly, I'm going to miss him," he said.
But Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for America, offered some backhanded praise.
"The irony of Mr. Waxman's disdain for the tea party is that his efforts, specifically on Obamacare and cap-and-trade [to curb greenhouse gases], helped transform the movement from protest in 2008 to action in 2010," he said. "Many of Waxman's colleagues lost their seats in the tea party wave of 2010 because of policies he crafted and pushed."