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Democrat

Rep. Henry Waxman (D)

Henry Waxman Contact
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Email: n/a
DC Contact Information

Phone: 202-225-3976

Address: 2204 RHOB, DC 20515

Henry Waxman Biography
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  • Elected: 1974, 20th term.
  • District: California 33
  • Born: Sep. 12, 1939, Los Angeles
  • Home: Los Angeles
  • Education:

    U.C.L.A., B.A. 1961, J.D. 1964

  • Professional Career:

    Practicing atty., 1965–68.

  • Political Career:

    CA Assembly, 1968–74.

  • Religion:

    Jewish

  • Family: Married (Janet); 2 children

Henry Waxman, a Democrat first elected in 1974, has long been one of the ablest members of the House and a shrewd political operator. He is the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chaired before Democrats lost the majority in the 2010 election. Former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson famously described Waxman as “tougher than a boiled owl.” Read More

Henry Waxman, a Democrat first elected in 1974, has long been one of the ablest members of the House and a shrewd political operator. He is the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chaired before Democrats lost the majority in the 2010 election. Former Wyoming Republican Sen. Alan Simpson famously described Waxman as “tougher than a boiled owl.”

Waxman announced in January 2014 that he would not seek re-election. “At the end of this year, I would have been in Congress for 40 years,” he told The Los Angeles Times. “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."

There is no Westside glitz about him. The son of Russian immigrants, Waxman grew up over his family’s store in Watts. He graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles and its law school, where he met Howard Berman, his longtime political ally and colleague from the adjacent 28th District until Berman lost his 2012 reelection bid. They became immersed in the Federation of Young Democrats, and Waxman chaired the group for a year. He moved up rapidly in politics by spying openings before others did. He ran against Assemblyman Lester McMillan in the mostly Jewish Fairfax area in 1968, at age 28, and won 64% in the primary. From 1971 to 1972, he chaired the Assembly’s redistricting committee, a good place to make friends. In 1974, he was elected to Congress. Waxman’s biggest break in Congress came after the 1978 election, when he was elected chairman of the Commerce Committee’s Health and Environment Subcommittee. This was one of the first times House Democrats decided to ignore seniority in handing out subcommittee chairs. Waxman argued his case on the issues. And in a move quite unprecedented at the time, though common in Sacramento, he made campaign contributions to other Democrats on the full committee. Waxman won the post, 15-12, over the widely respected Richardson Preyer of North Carolina.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Waxman and Berman built their own political machine in Los Angeles. Its power came not from patronage but from fundraising and savvy. They raised huge sums on the Westside for favored candidates. They put out carefully targeted direct mail, with customized letters and endorsement slates sent out to different lists of people. In California, where television advertising is exceedingly expensive and political activists are widely dispersed geographically, this made them critical players. But the organization withered in the 1990s. Waxman is less active now in Los Angeles-area politics, though he did endorse former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa in his successful 2005 mayoral race.

From 1978 to 1994, Waxman was part of the Democratic majority in the House and the chairman of an important subcommittee, making him a major national policy maker, usually from behind the scenes. In 1981 and 1982, he prevented the Reagan administration and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., from revising the Clean Air Act, because he wanted tougher pollution controls. Biding his time, Waxman worked to strengthen the law in the 1990 revision. He also had a hand in legislation addressing chemicals in drinking water, radon abatement, and lead contamination. Another Waxman project was expanding Medicaid for the poor. Between 1984 and 1990, he got coverage for all poor children up to age 18 and for pregnant women living in poverty. This helped raise Medicaid from 9% to 14% of state spending in the 1980s and explains why Waxman was unpopular with many governors.

Waxman has secured funding for AIDS research, important in a district with a large gay population. In early 1994, in widely publicized hearings, he lined up the chief executive officers of leading tobacco companies and accused them of adding nicotine and other substances to cigarettes and of lying in their testimony. All of this had no immediate legislative result, and when Republican Thomas Bliley of Virginia became Commerce Committee chairman, the hearings stopped. But Waxman brought the tobacco issue into public view, and he helped inspire the lawsuits against tobacco companies that resulted in a massive redistribution of corporate assets—from the tobacco companies to state governments and trial lawyers and their plaintiffs.

When Republicans took over Congress in 1995, there was no slackening of effort on Waxman’s part, though he was largely shut out of the legislative process. In 1996, he gave up the ranking position on the health subcommittee to become the ranking Democrat on the Government Reform Committee, where he concentrated on holding hearings and publicizing Government Accountability Office reports. Waxman sharply attacked GOP Chairman Dan Burton’s investigation of President Bill Clinton’s fundraising operation, arguing that Burton had given himself unprecedented subpoena power and was misusing it. He emerged as Clinton’s most articulate House defender during the campaign finance scandal. In 2001, with Republican George W. Bush as the new president, Waxman frequently fired off letters to Burton demanding investigations of alleged White House misdeeds. He and Dingell instigated a GAO investigation of company executives who had been consulted by Vice President Cheney’s energy task force. In February 2002, the GAO brought a lawsuit against Cheney, but a federal judge ruled against the agency.

In January 2003, Virginia Republican Tom Davis took over as committee chairman and promised a more constructive relationship with Waxman. Nevertheless, Waxman indefatigably wrote multi-page letters with dozens of footnotes and questions, called for GAO investigations, and invoked a 1920s rule that entitles any seven members of the committee to seek information from the executive branch. He assembled a staff of dozens of investigators, squirreled in tiny offices around the Capitol Hill complex. He and Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio demanded that 10 pharmaceutical companies reveal how much they paid in consulting fees and stock options to National Institutes of Health scientists, which led to a stricter NIH policy on ethics and disclosure in 2005. Waxman was a leading critic of Halliburton and other government contractors in Iraq, pointing out tirelessly that Cheney was once Halliburton’s chief executive officer and alleging that State Department documents revealed Halliburton employees tried to extract bribes for fuel contracts. But Waxman and Davis managed to work together on investigations on mad-cow disease and D.C. drinking water.

Democrats took control of the House in 2007, giving Waxman the gavel at the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Waxman reduced the number of subcommittees from seven to five and doubled the staff reporting to him. His first hearings were on whether the administration had interfered with the work of climate scientists and on fraud and waste in reconstruction projects in Iraq. But few subjects seemed too far afield for a Waxman investigation: He probed the health effects of uranium mines on Navajo lands, the pricing of government contracts with Sun Microsystems, and steroid use in professional baseball. Probably his most publicized hearing came in February 2008, when baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and his former trainer gave conflicting testimony on drug use. In 2008, Waxman turned his focus to the collapse of major financial institutions as a result of shaky lending practices and sought information on the compensation of executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage issuers.

With the arrival of a Democratic administration in 2009, Waxman could achieve more of his policy goals on the Energy and Commerce Committee than on the oversight panel. He remained particularly interested in issues related to air pollution and global warming. He had co-sponsored bills limiting carbon emissions and supported the bill passed by the California Legislature and signed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. In addition, he had long been eager to advance national health insurance legislation. All of this suggested that Waxman wanted to be chairman of Energy and Commerce. But there was a hitch: Dingell was next in line for the job. The long-brewing clash came after the November 2008 elections. House Democratic rules provided for committee chairmen to be chosen by a vote of the Democratic Caucus, and Waxman had quietly sought support and made contributions to Democrats in close elections. He then went public that he was challenging Dingell for the chairmanship. Dingell had the support of many members of the Congressional Black Caucus, of the conservative “Blue Dogs,” and of the moderate New Democrats. He also had the backing of lawmakers from industrial and coal states that would be hit hard by carbon emissions legislation. Waxman had the support of most of the 33 Democrats in the California delegation, the bulk of the Democratic freshmen, and, many believed, the backing of Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had a rocky relationship with Dingell but who chose to remain publicly neutral. Waxman won 137-122.

As chairman, Waxman played a key role in much of the major legislation of the 111th Congress (2009-10). In March 2009, he and Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts proposed a cap-and-trade bill that created an emissions trading system among industries with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions 20% by the year 2020, 42% by 2030, and 83% by 2050. Many emission permits would be auctioned off and utilities would be required to produce 6% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2012. Republicans called it a national energy tax, and even some Energy and Commerce Democrats were dubious. To gain votes, Waxman agreed to changes. He lowered the emissions target to 17% by 2020 and agreed that 35% of emissions credits would be granted free to electric utilities and 15% to producers of steel, aluminum, chemicals, and glass. To gain support from Texans, he agreed to provide 2% of emission credits to oil refiners; to get Dingell on board, he agreed to free credits for automakers that produce cars in the United States. The committee approved his bill 33-25, with one Republican voting yes and four Democrats voting no.

As the bill headed for a final floor showdown, Waxman made further concessions. To placate lawmakers from industrial districts, he agreed to tariffs against countries that don’t reduce carbon emissions. He gave Democrat Alan Grayson a $50 million hurricane research center in his Florida district. Amid intensive administration lobbying, the bill passed on June 26, 2009 by 219-212. “Today we have taken decisive and historic action to promote America’s energy security and to create millions of clean energy jobs that will drive our economic recovery and long-term growth,” Waxman said. Despite all of his efforts, the Senate, where opposition to the bill ran deep, never took it up.

Waxman also had a hand in the Democrats’ sweeping health care overhaul in 2009 and 2010. Speaker Pelosi hoped to pass it in the House before the August 2009 recess, but Waxman encountered problems in committee. Negotiations with conservative Blue Dog Democrats were on and off, and when Waxman agreed that a newly created government-run insurer would negotiate fees with providers rather than base them on Medicare rates, liberals complained loudly. Waxman propitiated them with more amendments. It finally passed in committee 31-28 on July 31, too late to come to the floor before the recess. Then, over the recess, some Democrats encountered strong opposition to the bill in town hall meetings. More changes were necessary to secure a majority, including the addition of an amendment by Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak barring any federal involvement in abortions. The bill finally came to the floor on Nov. 7, 2009, and passed 220 to 215. The Senate passed its own version on Dec. 24, 2009, and Congress ultimately approved a final version that was signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010.

In addition to major initiatives on energy and health care, Waxman influenced several smaller legislative efforts. He has long worked on drug patent legislation, and the development of biologics raised the issue of their patent life. Companies and universities developing biologics wanted 14 years. Waxman, opposed to patent protection, initially proposed zero but ultimately agreed to a White House-engineered compromise of 10 years. Energy and Commerce also weighed in on the financial regulatory rewrite in 2009, and Waxman prevailed over Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass., in having a board rather than a single chairman run a new consumer protection agency. On other issues, the committee passed a bill requiring black boxes to be installed on cars to provide a record in crashes, voted unanimously to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority to shield the nation’s electric grid from terrorist attacks, and approved a rewrite of the Clean Water Act. In July 2009, he published The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works, a memoir written with the assistance of Atlantic staff writer Joshua Green.

Returning to the minority in 2011, Waxman remained as energetic as ever. He unveiled a searchable online database of GOP attempts to block clean air and water laws and called the Republican-run House “the most anti-environmental Congress in history.” He spoke out passionately against an April 2011 resolution that sought to prevent controversial Internet regulations from going into effect. The Democratic-run Federal Communications Commission had approved the regulations. He also sought hearings on topics such as the safety of football helmets and the software on Android-based smartphones that allegedly tracked smartphone users’ keystrokes. And he continued to battle the tobacco industry, issuing a report in August 2012 that cited internal documents from several manufacturers revealing their plans to evade taxes. The documents also suggested the manufacturers were trying to subvert a ban on flavored tobaccos that was put in place to prevent young people from taking up smoking. In pressing for greater bipartisanship, Waxman said in a January 2013 letter to Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., that of the 31 bills reported from the committee or taken to the floor without Democratic support in the 112th Congress (2011-12), only two were signed into law. Meanwhile, he said, 18 of the committee’s 33 bipartisan bills became law.

Until 2012, Waxman had always won reelection easily. But congressional redistricting following the 2010 census led the upscale, Republican-leaning Palos Verdes peninsula to be appended to his liberal turf, prompting wealthy businessman Bill Bloomfield to run as an independent. Bloomfield wrote his campaign a check for $1.2 million and held Waxman to 45% of the vote in the top-two primary, setting up a Bloomfield-Waxman match in the general election and prompting Waxman to take the race seriously. Bloomfield ended up spending $7.5 million of his own money to try to unseat the incumbent, but Waxman raised $1.9 million, campaigned vigorously and won the race 54%-46%.

In announcing his retirement, Waxman said his frustration with Congress' partisanship and gridlock was not the motivating factor behind his decision. Even so, in a statement he bemoaned the “extremism of the tea party Republicans,” adding that he was “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" -- the latter a reference to the hardening political battles over climate change.

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Henry Waxman Election Results
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2012 General (Top-Two General)
Henry Waxman (D)
Votes: 171,860
Percent: 53.96%
Bill Bloomfield (I)
Votes: 146,660
Percent: 46.04%
2012 Primary (Top-Two Primary)
Henry Waxman (D)
Votes: 51,235
Percent: 45.32%
Bill Bloomfield (I)
Votes: 27,850
Percent: 24.63%
Christopher David (R)
Votes: 17,264
Percent: 15.27%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (65%), 2008 (100%), 2006 (71%), 2004 (71%), 2002 (70%), 2000 (76%), 1998 (74%), 1996 (68%), 1994 (68%), 1992 (61%), 1990 (69%), 1988 (72%), 1986 (88%), 1984 (63%), 1982 (65%), 1980 (64%), 1978 (63%), 1976 (68%), 1974 (64%)
Henry Waxman Votes and Bills
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National Journal’s rating system is an objective method of analyzing voting. The liberal score means that the lawmaker’s votes were more liberal than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The conservative score means his votes were more conservative than that percentage of his colleagues’ votes. The composite score is an average of a lawmaker’s six issue-based scores. See all NJ Voting

More Liberal
More Conservative
2013 2012 2011
Economic 91 (L) : - (C) 89 (L) : - (C) 85 (L) : 15 (C)
Social 79 (L) : 16 (C) 85 (L) : - (C) 80 (L) : - (C)
Foreign 71 (L) : 29 (C) 85 (L) : 14 (C) 88 (L) : - (C)
Composite 82.7 (L) : 17.3 (C) 90.8 (L) : 9.2 (C) 89.7 (L) : 10.3 (C)
Interest Group Ratings

The vote ratings by 10 special interest groups provide insight into a lawmaker’s general ideology and the degree to which he or she agrees with the group’s point of view. Two organizations provide just one combined rating for 2011 and 2012, the two sessions of the 112th Congress. They are the ACLU and the ITIC. About the interest groups.

20112012
FRC100
LCV9797
CFG1615
ITIC-58
NTU1512
20112012
COC13-
ACLU-100
ACU80
ADA95100
AFSCME100-
Key House Votes

The key votes show how a member of Congress voted on the major bills of the year. N indicates a "no" vote; Y a "yes" vote. If a member voted "present" or was absent, the bill caption is not shown. For a complete description of the bills included in key votes, see the Almanac's Guide to Usage.

    • Pass GOP budget
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • End fiscal cliff
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Extend payroll tax cut
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2012
    • Find AG in contempt
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Stop student loan hike
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Repeal health care
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2012
    • Raise debt limit
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Pass cut, cap, balance
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Defund Planned Parenthood
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Repeal lightbulb ban
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2011
    • Add endangered listings
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Speed troop withdrawal
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2011
    • Regulate financial firms
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Pass tax cuts for some
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Stop detainee transfers
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2010
    • Legalize immigrants' kids
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Repeal don't ask, tell
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Limit campaign funds
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2010
    • Overturn Ledbetter
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass $820 billion stimulus
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Let guns in national parks
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass cap-and-trade
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Bar federal abortion funds
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2009
    • Pass health care bill
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2009
    • Bail out financial markets
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2008
    • Repeal D.C. gun law
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Overhaul FISA
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2008
    • Increase minimum wage
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Expand SCHIP
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Raise CAFE standards
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Share immigration data
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Foreign aid abortion ban
    • Vote: N
    • Year: 2007
    • Ban gay bias in workplace
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Withdraw troops 8/08
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • No operations in Iran
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
    • Free trade with Peru
    • Vote: Y
    • Year: 2007
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About Almanac
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The Almanac is a members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics. Comprehensive online profiles include biographical and political summaries of elected officials, campaign expenditures, voting records, interest-group ratings, and congressional staff look-ups. In-depth overviews of each state and house district are included as well, along with demographic data, analysis of voting trends, and political histories.
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