And so, with news swirling today that Democrats have given up on retaking the House that they lost after the ObamaCare backlash three years ago, one of the law’s architects decides to throw in the towel. Perfection.
When he goes home in January, he’ll have served 40 years in Congress. Before taking his seat in 1975, he served six years as a member of the California state legislature. His entire adult life from the age of 29 has been spent in government. Grotesque.
Since arriving in the Capitol during the Watergate-era, Waxman’s reach has extended nationally. As the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee during the George W. Bush administration, he was a pugnacious partisan who sought to hold the White House accountable. When President Barack Obama was elected, Waxman came out on top of a bitter brawl within the Democratic Caucus when he knocked off Michigan Rep. John Dingell to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he helped craft Obamacare, as well as legislation that sought to drastically slash on carbon emissions…
“I don’t accept the idea that Democrats won’t get the House back,” Waxman said. “I think that the Republicans have nothing to offer. They’re against everything. They’re against everything Obama wanted. They have no alternatives on health care policy. They have nothing to say, they have nothing to offer.”
“I just think it’s time to move on,” Waxman added.
In a separate interview, he blamed the “extremism” of tea partiers for Congress’s paralysis, a fitting farewell from a guy (a) who did more than most to make the tea-party class of 2010 possible and (b) whose idea of bipartisan compromise was ramming through on party lines a health-care boondoggle that the public has disliked since the day it was signed. Here’s a list of the many, many bills he helped write over the years. Scroll through and you’ll see this is no ordinary retirement; this is House Democrats losing one of their policy engines. It’s no ordinary retirement for the leadership, either. Waxman was, famously, one of Pelosi’s right-hand men; so was George Miller, another California Democrat who’s on his way out. Expect the Pelosi Retirement Watch to begin … well, now, actually.
An interesting footnote on Waxman: His district became more conservative after the lines were redrawn as part of the 2010 redistricting. Evidently California’s Democratic legislature decided to stick him with a few more Republican voters on the assumption that, as a state institution and perennial winner, he could handle it with no sweat. It didn’t play out that way in 2012. He won by just eight points over an independent, a scent of blood in the water that attracted newbie candidates this year. A guy who’s spent his 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and half of his 70s winning elections isn’t going to risk leaving Congress by being ignominiously hauled out by voters, a fate that his California colleague Pete Stark — who also served 40 years in the House — suffered in 2012. You can’t fire Henry. He quits.
Exit question: When does Nancy announce that she’s riding off into the sunset too? Having her retire in despair of recapturing the House before the midterms would be a crushing blow to Democratic morale. I’m thinking she’ll lie low, win reelection, and then step down during the lame-duck session. Tick tock.