- Represented California in the House of Representatives from 1975-2015
- Favors government-controlled universal health insurance for all Americans
- Facilitated the 2004 efforts of antiwar activists to deliver $600,000 worth of cash and medical supplies to the families of terrorist insurgents in Iraq
- Co-sponsored a 2009 bill calling for the creation of a “cap-and-trade” arrangement mandating reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
Born in Los Angeles, California on September 12, 1939, Henry Arnold Waxman earned a B.A. in political science from UCLA in 1961 and a J.D. from UCLA Law School in 1964. He served three terms in the California Assembly from 1969 until 1974, at which time he was elected to represent California’s 30th Congressional District. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next 40 years.
A leading financial backer of Waxman’s many political campaigns was the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. Waxman also drew strong support from the members and political action committees of large and powerful labor unions like AFSCME and the SEIU.
In December 2004, Waxman and three fellow Democrats — Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressmen Raul Grijalva, and Dennis Kucinich — wrote diplomatic courtesy letters on behalf of a contingent of antiwar activists who, in an effort to draw attention to “the unjust nature” of the Iraq War, wished to personally deliver a combined $600,000 in cash and medical supplies to the families of the terrorist insurgents who were actively fighting American troops in Fallujah. Those traveling in the contingent were representatives of the mission’s sponsoring organizations, which included Code Pink, Global Exchange, Iraq Occupation Watch, the Middle East Children’s Alliance, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Project Guerrero Azteca for Peace, United for Peace and Justice, and Voices in the Wilderness. The most prominent individual participants were Medea Benjamin, and Jodie Evans.
In 2006 Waxman held Congressional hearings on what he characterized as excessive profiteering by contractors who were engaged in rebuilding projects in war-torn Iraq. Similarly, Waxman called for limits on the profits of oil and pharmaceutical companies, which he portrayed as predatory and exploitative enterprises.
In the summer of 2008, Waxman, who supported the lifting of the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba, dispatched a staffer named Andrew McCanse Wright to conduct a nine-day “fact-finding mission” in that country. The trip was funded by a grant from the Center for Democracy in the Americas, which has ties to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Waxman identified health and environmental issues as his chief legislative priorities. Regarding the former, he favored an expansion of Medicare and Medicaid coverage and, ultimately, the establishment of a single-payer, universal health insurance system for all Americans. He was a strong backer of Health Care For America Now, an organization that likewise advocated a single-payer model. During the healthcare debate of 2009-10, however, Waxman — conceding that a single-payer system was unlikely to be politically feasible — called instead for the inclusion of a “public option” in any new legislation, whereby a government insurance agency would “compete” with private insurers and inevitably drive them out of business.
Vis à vis environmental matters, Waxman is best known for having collaborated with Rep. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) in March 2009 to sponsor the 1,200-page American Clean Energy and Security Act, popularly dubbed the Waxman-Markey Act. This legislation’s signature program was a “cap-and-trade” arrangement mandating steep reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, coupled with punitive taxes on any businesses exceeding their predetermined emissions allowances. After Waxman-Markey was passed by a 219-to-212 vote in the House of Representatives, Americans for Tax Reform — a non-partisan group that “opposes all tax increases as a matter of principle” — reported that Waxman, on the day before the cap-and-trade vote was conducted, had tried to influence the votes of uncommitted House Democrats by transferring at least $16,000 in campaign contributions to their coffers.
In 2007 Waxman served as an advisory-committee member with the Jewish Fund for Justice, a forerunner to Jewish Funds for Justice, which advocates wealth-redistribution as a means of combating America’s “gross economic inequality.” Waxman has also served on the advisory committee of the Progressive Majority; he is a supporter of Public Citizen; and he has been a member of the Sierra Club.
In January 2014, Waxman announced that he planned to retire from Congress at the end of his current term. He vacated his seat in the U.S. House in January 2015.
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