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Henry Waxman, legendary Democrat California Congressman retiring at end of year

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Rep. Henry Waxman announced today that he is retiring at the end of the year, after serving 20 terms in the House of Representatives from the 33rd Congressional district of California. The 33rd also includes wealthy enclaves like Beverly Hills and Malibu.

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Waxman is a living legend in Congress and will be missed by colleagues on both sides of the aisle. He is leaving behind a sterling reputation, a rarity these days.

Politico says that Waxman has two giant legacies. The first as a master craftsman at cutting the big deal. The second as a man who could throw a potent political punch.

Still, Waxman will leave behind a legacy of entrenched accomplishments, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which extends coverage to millions of low-income children; anti-tobacco, food safety and food-labeling laws; and the Ryan White Care Act, which allocates billions of dollars in federal money for the treatment of H.I.V. and AIDS.

Waxman once served on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee as Chairman, Waxman conducted high-profile investigations of Wall Street, Major League Baseball, Pentagon contractors and the tobacco industry. In 1994, Waxman forced the chief executives of the seven major tobacco companies to swear under oath that nicotine was not addictive.

On March 16, 2004, at Waxman's request, the Committee on Government Reform Minority Office published "Iraq on the Record, the Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq," a detailed and searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made.

One of his biggest deals was crafting the Affordable Care Act, which took shape in the Energy and Commerce Committee. It is one of Waxman's proudest achievements. Waxman was a key voice in shaping the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

He has been unapologetic about the health care law during its troubled rollout in the fall, and he said that he was confident it would survive and that its use as a political weapon would diminish.

"I’m proud of the Affordable Care Act," he said. "I think it’s a terrific piece of legislation."

Waxman said in his statement in announcing the retirement saying, "I first ran for office because I believe government can be a force for good in people’s lives. I have held this view throughout my career in Congress. And I will leave the House of Representatives with my conviction intact. I have learned that progress is not always easy. It can take years of dedication and struggle. But it’s worth fighting for."

"He’s one of the greats,” said former FDA commissioner David Kessler. "This country could not have made the progress it did in public health over the last three decades without him."

"Not just health care reform, but making a difference with tobacco, AIDS, drug safety, expanding coverage — you name it. Henry did it," Kessler said.

President Obama released a statement and said in part, when learning of Waxman's retirement, "Thanks to Henry’s leadership, Americans breathe cleaner air, drink cleaner water, eat safer food, purchase safer products, and, finally, have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Today, he continues to advocate tirelessly on behalf of Los Angeles and California as he leads efforts to address a changing climate and make sure every American has the economic security that comes with health insurance."

Obama added, "Henry will leave behind a legacy as an extraordinary public servant and one of the most accomplished legislators of his or any era."

More than 30 House members have announced they will retire, resign or run for other offices this year, including stalwarts like George Miller, Democrat of California; Tom Latham, Republican of Iowa; Frank R. Wolf, Republican of Virginia; and Howard P. McKeon of California, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

One of the leading contenders for his slot is Sandra Fluke, who was made famous by two conservatives: Rep. Darrell Issa, Chairman of the House Oversight Committee and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.

One for ignoring her and the other for not ignoring her.

Issa ignored her and helped her gain national attention by refusing her to testify before the House Oversight Committee holding a hearing on Obamacare’s contraception requirements.

Limbaugh did not ignore her and perhaps he should have. The controversy went viral when Limbaugh called her a "prostitute" and a "slut" because of what Limbaugh called "her need for birth control."

Limbaugh responded: "She says that she must be paid to have sex, what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She's having so much sex she can't afford the contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex. What does that make us? We're the pimps. (interruption) The johns? We would be the johns? No! We're not the johns. (interruption) Yeah, that's right. Pimp's not the right word.

Thinking twice, Limbaugh paused and said, "Okay, so she's not a slut. She's 'round heeled.' I take it back."

What will Rush Limbaugh say this time? His first comments made her a celebrity. The second set of comments: Election to the House of Representatives perhaps.

***

Sources:

POLITICO - Henry Waxman

POLITICO - Sandra Fluke

Time

Sacramento Bee

Wikipedia - Sandra Fluke and Rush Limbaugh

***

Send John Presta an email and your story ideas or suggestions, johnpresta@att.net.

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