20-Term Democratic Rep. Waxman to Retire

WASHINGTON (AP) -
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) fields a flurry of phone calls in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, Thursday, after he announced that he would retire after 40 years in the House of Representatives. (AP Photo)
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) fields a flurry of phone calls in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, Thursday, after he announced that he would retire after 40 years in the House of Representatives. (AP Photo)

Rep. Henry Waxman, one of Congress’ fiercest negotiators and a policy expert on everything from clean air to health care, will retire at the end of the year after four decades in the House.

“It’s time for someone else to have the chance to make his or her mark,” the liberal California Democrat said Thursday in a statement announcing he won’t seek re-election.

Democrats and some Republicans saluted Waxman for the breadth of his work, from policy to good government and more.

“Henry will leave behind a legacy as an extraordinary public servant and one of the most accomplished legislators of his or any era,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Waxman himself said he never expected to serve in the House for so long.

“It has been an extraordinary experience,” he said.

Not one, however, without a degree of disillusionment.

In his 3 1/2-page statement, Waxman explicitly condemned conservative House Republicans elected in 2010. “I abhor the extremism of the tea party,” he said, adding he’s “embarrassed that the greatest legislative body in the world too often operates in a partisan intellectual vacuum, denying science, refusing to listen to experts and ignoring facts.”

But the mustachioed, bespectacled congressman made clear he’s not running from the institution. He said he’s not leaving out of frustration or because he thinks minority Democrats don’t have a chance at regaining the House majority — his seat is likely to stay in Democratic hands. But he stopped short of predicting Democrats will retake the House in this year’s midterm elections.

Waxman, 74, was elected during the post-Watergate class of 1974 and represents perhaps the nation’s most glamorous district, Bel Air, Brentwood and Malibu.