Henry Waxman, Longtime Green Advocate, Will Retire From Congress

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.
National Journal
Ben Geman
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Ben Geman
Jan. 30, 2014, 6:21 a.m.

Rep. Henry Wax­man, who has played a ma­jor role in craft­ing en­vir­on­ment­al stat­utes and pushed for ac­tion against cli­mate change, an­nounced Thursday that he will not seek reelec­tion this fall after four dec­ades in the House.

“I am grate­ful for the sup­port of my con­stitu­ents, who have en­trus­ted me to rep­res­ent them and en­cour­aged me to be­come a lead­er on na­tion­al and in­ter­na­tion­al is­sues. I am grate­ful for my sup­port­ers and al­lies, who have worked side-by-side with me to fight for is­sues we care about: health, en­vir­on­ment­al pro­tec­tion, wo­men’s and gay rights, and strength­en­ing the ties between the United States and our most im­port­ant ally, the State of Is­rael,” the Cali­for­nia Demo­crat said in a state­ment.

Wax­man’s ten­ure in­cluded coau­thor­ing ma­jor 1990 re­vi­sions to the Clean Air Act, as well as laws to strengthen drink­ing wa­ter and food-safety pro­tec­tions.

He co­sponsored the sweep­ing cli­mate-change and en­ergy bill that passed the House in 2009 but didn’t ad­vance in the Sen­ate.

More re­cently he has been a lead­er in Cap­it­ol Hill ef­forts to raise the vis­ib­il­ity of cli­mate change and help cre­ate polit­ic­al space for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ex­ec­ut­ive ac­tions.

Wax­man is the top Demo­crat on the House En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee.

He chaired that pan­el in 2009-2010 be­fore Demo­crats lost the House, and be­fore that was chair­man of the House Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Re­form Com­mit­tee for two years, among oth­er seni­or con­gres­sion­al roles through the dec­ades.

Wax­man, in his state­ment an­noun­cing his re­tire­ment, looked back on his en­vir­on­ment­al work.

“In per­haps no area have the spe­cial in­terests held more sway than en­vir­on­ment­al policy, and I have battled them to pro­tect clean air and safe drink­ing wa­ter throughout my ca­reer.  It took a dec­ade of ef­fort to pass the land­mark Clean Air Act of 1990, but the con­trols on urb­an smog, tox­ic air pol­lu­tion, acid rain, and ozone-de­plet­ing chem­ic­als have saved lives and vastly im­proved our air qual­ity,” he said.

The pro­gress­ive Wax­man is a savvy in­side polit­ic­al op­er­at­or who plays hard­ball at times.

In 2008 he staged a suc­cess­ful coup against then-En­ergy and Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Din­gell to be­come head of the pan­el, a move that came ahead of Demo­crats’ big 2009 push on cli­mate le­gis­la­tion.

He then held to­geth­er enough re­gion­al and polit­ic­al in­terests to win a nar­row vic­tory on the House floor in June of 2009, when cap-and-trade le­gis­la­tion passed 219-212.

Wax­man, 74, drew praise from al­lies and even some ad­versar­ies after his an­nounce­ment Thursday.

“He will be re­membered as one of the most im­port­ant con­gress­men of the gen­er­a­tion,” Sen. Ed Mar­key, who co-sponsored the cli­mate bill while serving in the House, told re­port­ers on Cap­it­ol Hill Thursday.

“When we partnered on the Wax­man-Mar­key cli­mate change bill that passed the House in 2009, I saw what the world saw — a mas­ter le­gis­lat­or who is driv­en by his deep pas­sion for the is­sues and the people he rep­res­ents,” said Mar­key, a Mas­sachu­setts Demo­crat who served with Wax­man for dec­ades in the House, in a sep­ar­ate state­ment.

Scott Segal, an at­tor­ney and lob­by­ist with Bracewell & Gi­uliani who rep­res­ents power com­pan­ies, has been on the oth­er side of Wax­man in many battles but said he will miss the long­time con­gress­man.

“It is hard to ima­gine a Wash­ing­ton en­vir­on­ment­al com­munity without the wis­dom and per­spect­ive of Henry Wax­man. While we fre­quently had policy dis­agree­ments with him, 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,” Segal said.

Na­tion­al Journ­al has more on Wax­man’s de­cision here.

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