Henry Waxman, Liberal Congressman, to Retire After 40 Years

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Waxman championed healthcare and environmental issues

Rep. Henry Waxman, a pioneering California liberal who championed environmental and healthcare causes, will retire after spending 40 years and 20 terms in Congress.

In an interview with the New York Times, Waxman said the political polarization in Washington was one of the reasons for his departure.

“It’s been frustrating because of the extremism of Tea Party Republicans,” Waxman told the Times. “Nothing seems to be happening.”

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Waxman’s 33rd congressional district encompasses West Hollywood, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, liberal bastions where his defense of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is politically popular.

Self-help guru Marianne Williamson announced last year that she was going to run against the 74-year old as an independent candidate.

With a career that extends back to the Ford presidency, Waxman can point to numerous legislative achievements that improved clean air standards, provided care to AIDS patients and expanded Medicaid coverage to low-income citizens. He was also a prominent supporter of cap-and-trade legislation.

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He took on the tobacco lobby, tried to clean up steroid abuse in professional sports and crusaded against shoddy government contracts. With his bald head, diminutive stature and prominent mustache, Waxman became a lighting rod for conservative criticism.

Before Republicans took back Congress in 2010, Waxman chaired the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he helped develop the president’s healthcare law.

He has also been a persistent critic of the Tribune Company and its plans to spin-off the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, accusing the company of “looting” the papers and saddling them with debt.

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