On Thursday, January 30, Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) announced his retirement after a career that has spanned five decades and twenty terms.
A champion of the left with passions in public health, some of Waxman’s biggest legislative accomplishments were his laws on food safety to both provide nutritional labels and regulate pesticide use. He brought HIV/AIDS to the public’s attention in the 1980s, and co-sponsored the bill credited with spawning the generic drug industry and saving consumers billions in drug costs. He also led the charge to regulate and control the tobacco industry, and was notorious for asking tobacco executives loaded questions at the hearings. One of the first Congressmen to sense the danger of climate change, he helped pass the Clean Air Act.
Perhaps what will be remembered more than Waxman’s legislative record will be his role as a watchdog of government. Nicknamed by Jon Stewart as “The Mustache of Justice,” he led investigations into the MLB’s steroid use and especially the Iraq War. In 2004, the Government Reform Minority Office, at his request, published over 200 specific misleading statements made by the Bush administration on the Iraq War.
Politico wrote that Waxman will be remembered “as a master craftsman in the art of cutting the big deal and someone who could throw a potent political punch.” Indeed, the Representative has drawn comparisons to Ted Kennedy for his ability to advance legislation. About his career, Waxman commented, “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 House of Representatives.”