WASHINGTON — Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, of California, a leading liberal who helped craft President Barack Obama’s landmark health care overhaul, said on Thursday he would retire from Congress at the end of this year.
After 40 years in Congress, Waxman, 74, said he is ready to move on. His career in politics included efforts to promote clean air, strengthen food safety laws, improve AIDS initiatives, bolster health care for the poor, lower drug prices and crack down on the tobacco industry.
“In 1974, I announced my first campaign for Congress,” Waxman said in a statement. “Today, I am announcing that I have run my last campaign. I will not seek re-election.”
As chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee in Obama’s first term, Waxman helped the president develop and enact a sweeping overhaul of the U.S. health care system in a bid to provide insurance to millions of Americans without coverage.
Waxman also took a leading role in advancing White House-backed legislation to stem climate change. The bill passed the House but died in the Senate.
Waxman’s term as committee chairman ended in 2011 after Republicans won control of the House from Democrats, in part because of voter dissatisfaction with the president’s health care program, known as Obamacare.
Waxman is the second key ally of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi to announce plans this month to retire, following Rep. George Miller, who is also from California.
Pelosi hailed Waxman, declaring in a statement, “For the past four decades, Congressman Henry Waxman’s name has been synonymous with responsible action, extraordinary legislative skill, passionate public service, and bold leadership.”
Waxman became the seventh House Democrat to announce plans to retire at the end of the year rather than seek another term. Ten House Republicans are also retiring.
Republicans currently hold the House, 233-200, with three vacancies, and are expected to retain the chamber in the November elections.
Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, chairman of the House Republican campaign committee, called Waxman’s decision to retire “a clear indication” that Democrats figure that they will not win back the House this year.
“Doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to keep trying,” Walden added.
Waxman, in his statement, said, “I am not leaving because I think House Democrats have no chance to retake the House,” and took a verbal shot at House Republicans, saying, they have “no compelling vision for the future.”
“The public understands this, and I am confident that the Democrats can regain control of the House,” Waxman said. “The reason for my decision (to retire from Congress at the end of the year) is simple.”
“After 40 years in Congress, it’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark, ideally someone who is young enough to make the long-term commitment that’s required for real legislative success,” Waxman said.
“I still feel youthful and energetic, but I recognize if I want to experience a life outside of Congress, I need to start soon,” the 74-year-old lawmaker said.