* Waxman helped draft Obamacare
* Championed legislation on combating climate change
* Key Pelosi ally
(Adds Obama comment, more Waxman quotes, background)
By Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Jan 30 Democratic U.S.
Representative Henry Waxman of California, a leading liberal who
helped craft President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare
overhaul, said on Thursday he would retire from Congress at the
end of the year.
After 40 years in Congress, Waxman, 74, said he was ready to
move on. His career in politics included promoting clean air,
strengthening food safety laws, improving AIDS initiatives,
bolstering healthcare for the poor, lowering drug prices and
cracking 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.
healthcare 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.
Obama saluted Waxman as "one of the most accomplished
legislators of his or any era."
"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," the White House said in a statement.
Waxman's term as committee chairman ended in 2011 after
Republicans won control of the House from Democrats, partly
because of voter dissatisfaction with the president's healthcare
program, known as Obamacare.
Waxman is the second key ally of House Democratic leader
Nancy Pelosi to announce plans this month to retire, following
Representative 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
Representative 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
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.
Waxman's district encompasses much of the wealthy west side
of Los Angeles, as well as Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and other
beachfront communities, and has been described as one of the
most liberal and affluent in the country. Obama carried the
district with almost 61 percent of the vote in the 2012
The competition for Waxman's seat is expected to be
vigorous. One Democrat seen as a possible contender is veteran
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a longtime local
political ally of Waxman who is being forced to resign his post
in December by term limits after a 20-year tenure.
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," he said.
The lawmaker said he was "not leaving out of frustration
with Congress," although adding, "There are elements of Congress
today that I do not like.
"I abhor the extremism of the Tea Party Republicans. I am
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."
(Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell, Roberta Rampton and
Peter Cooney, and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Doina
Chiacu, Sandra Maler and Cynthia Osterman)