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The ‘Mustache of Justice’ has left the building.
February 13, 2014 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Thomas Scully, the Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under President George W. Bush, once said, “Fifty percent of the social safety net was created by Henry Waxman when no one was looking.” After 40 years and 17 consecutive terms, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) is retiring from Congress.

Mother Jones called him ”the Democrats' Eliot Ness." Rolling Stone called him “the most feared Democrat on Capitol Hill.” The Washington Post called him "the Bush administration's worst nightmare." The New Yorker simply addressed him by his nickname, "The Mustache of Justice." And when Time Magazine, who called him “The Scariest Guy in Washington," listed the “top 10 corporate grillings” in the history of Congress, four of them were hearings that Rep. Waxman chaired.

He once threatened to have Darrell Issa physically removed from an EPA Oversight and Government Reform hearing, and in 2009 he wrote The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works, an inside account of how Congress really works by describing the subtleties and complexities of the legislative process.

Waxman, who has represented a large swarth of the western parts of Los Angeles since 1974, left his legislative mark in five areas: health policy, consumer protection, environmental protection, telecommunications policy, and good government laws. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has released a detailed 40-page Record of Accomplishment [PDF].

Some of the major health legislation that Rep. Waxman has written or played a leading role in enacting includes:
  • The Affordable Care Act, which gives all Americans access to affordable health insurance, strengthens Medicare and Medicaid, and reduces the deficit.
  • Medicaid and CHIP Expansions, which extended the coverage and benefits available to zmillions of needy and working families.
  • Nursing Home Reforms, which stopped the industry’s worst abuses and protected the rights of vulnerable residents.
  • The Waxman-Hatch Generic Drug Act, which gave rise to the generic drug industry, saving consumers over $1 trillion in the last decade alone.
  • The Orphan Drug Act, which gave drug companies incentives to develop treatments for rare diseases they had previously ignored.
  • The Ryan White CARE Act, which provides medical care and other services to Americans living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Women’s Health Initiatives, including the laws establishing standards for mammography, requiring the inclusion of women in clinical trials, and creating the Office of Research on Women’s Health at NIH.
  • The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which strengthened FDA oversight of vaccine manufacturers and created a no-fault compensation system for vaccine-related injuries.
Some of the major consumer protection laws that Rep. Waxman has written or played a leading role in enacting include:
  • The Nutrition Labeling Act, which mandated the ubiquitous and popular nutrition labels that consumers rely upon to compare packaged foods.
  • The Food Quality Protection Act, which established a strong health-based standard for pesticide residues in food.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act, which sets science-based standards for the safe production and harvesting of raw agricultural commodities and requires new preventative controls for companies that process or package foods.
  • Cigarette and Smokeless Tobacco Health Warning Laws, which required rotating Surgeon General warnings on cigarette packages and advertisements and the first health warnings on smokeless tobacco packages and advertisements.
  • The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which restricted the marketing of cigarettes and smokeless tobacco to children and gave FDA jurisdiction over tobacco products.
  • The Safe Medical Devices Act, which enhanced public protection from dangerous medical devices by requiring mandatory reporting of adverse events and surveillance and tracking of implantable devices.
  • The Drug Quality and Security Act, which strengthens FDA’s authority over compounded drugs and creates a uniform system for tracking drugs to prevent counterfeits.
Some of the major environmental laws that Rep. Waxman has written or played a leading role in enacting include:
  • The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments, which established new programs to reduce urban smog, hazardous air pollution, and acid rain and prevent the depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer.
  • Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments, which strengthened the standards for drinking water and established funding mechanisms for drinking water infrastructure improvements.
  • Laws Reducing Childhood Lead Exposure, including laws removing lead from plumbing supplies, water coolers, and children’s toys, requiring disclosure of lead hazards during real estate transactions, and setting standards for safe renovations.
  • The Formaldehyde Standards Act, which set minimum standards for formaldehyde levels from plywood, fiberboard, and particleboard.
  • Laws Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions, including provisions requiring greater efficiency in federal buildings and procurement of clean vehicles.
Some of the major telecommunications laws that Rep. Waxman has written or played a leading role in enacting include:
  • Spectrum Reforms, which will ease the nation’s growing spectrum shortage, enable new “super WiFi” applications, and create a nationwide broadband network for first responders.
  • The 21st Century Video and Communications Accessibility Act, which increases the access of persons with disabilities to smart phones and other modern communications devices.
And some of the major good government laws that Rep. Waxman has written or played a leading role in enacting include:
  • Procurement Reforms, which enhanced competition, transparency, and accountability in government contracting to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, the first major overhaul of the U.S. Postal Service since 1970.
Rep. Waxman’s oversight record matches his legislative one. Some of his major investigations have probed:
  • Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, identifying over $1 trillion in wasteful and mismanaged federal contracts, including billions of dollars of wasteful spending in Iraq and the response to Hurricane Katrina.
  • Misleading Intelligence, exposing over 200 misleading statements by senior Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq.
  • The Tobacco Industry, revealing decades of industry concealment of the dangers of smoking and the addictiveness of nicotine.
  • Steroids in Baseball, uncovering the extent of players’ illegal drug use during baseball’s “steroids era” and prompting major reforms in steroid policies in baseball and other sports.
  • Politicization of Science, disclosing dozens of instances in which Bush Administration officials distorted or misrepresented science, such as funding misleading abstinence-only education programs or censuring climate experts.
  • The Wall Street Collapse, examining the fall of Lehman Brothers and AIG, the failure of the credit rating agencies, and the negligence and mistakes of market regulators.
  • The Gulf Oil Spill, disclosing a series of overlooked warnings and risky decisions made by BP to reduce costs and save time.
posted by Room 641-A (35 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

welp. NOW we're fucked.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:18 AM on February 13 [13 favorites]

posted by Stewriffic at 9:18 AM on February 13

To elaborate, Waxman prepared a very important report on the content of federally-funded abstinence-only education programs. I work in adolescent sexual health, so this meant a lot to me. Hope someone steps in to be such a great advocate.

The report is here.
posted by Stewriffic at 9:26 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

MetaFilter has become so much a part of me that I'm searching for some button that will let me favorite Henry Waxman.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:30 AM on February 13 [29 favorites]

but...but.. but we NEED you, Henry!
posted by louche mustachio at 9:38 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

Even though he basically had no chance of losing the last few elections, I was still excited about getting to vote for him. It's nice when your representative not only does things, but mostly does things that you approve of.

Kinda wish he hadn't wasted so much time on pro baseball, though.
posted by dogwalker at 9:39 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

This is saddening news, but hey, Ron Wyden is chair of the finance committee now. When god closes a mustache he opens an 8 foot tall window.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:43 AM on February 13 [5 favorites]

This should prove interesting.
posted by IndigoJones at 9:44 AM on February 13

This should prove interesting.

She would be a striking successor, no doubt. But this bit from her FAQ is intriguing:


A: Absolutely I am. And if elected, I would caucus with the Democrats. But [...] America’s best ideas have often emerged from outside the party system. Abolition didn’t come from a major party; it emerged from the Abolitionist Party. Women’s Suffrage didn’t come from a major party; it emerged from the Suffragette Party. Social Security didn’t come from a major party; it emerged from the Socialist Party. I think it would be extremely healthy for both major political parties if more independent voices made their way to Congress.
posted by psoas at 9:56 AM on February 13 [4 favorites]

In addition to his long list of accomplishments, he took other notable positions, voting against NAFTA and expressing support for EFCA.

Has anyone seen polling on Lieu vs. Gruel?
posted by univac at 9:58 AM on February 13

Wow. Hell of a guy.
posted by grubi at 9:59 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]

Just when we need more grown-ups in Congress, not fewer...
posted by Thorzdad at 10:11 AM on February 13 [8 favorites]

One significant detraction from all the good he did in Congress is a black stain on his record: siding with the old white racists and NIMBYists by keeping LA's rail efforts stymied for a generation.

He deserves kudos for all the good work he did, but he also deserves a hearty "screw you, Waxman" for hobbling LA for decades.
posted by chimaera at 10:29 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

Also, apparently The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act is the act that "stipulates that the USPS is to make payments of $5.4 - $5.8 billion into the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund, each year, from 2007 to 2016 in order to prefund 50 years of estimated costs". So, boo on that.
posted by Green With You at 11:18 AM on February 13 [1 favorite]

One significant detraction from all the good he did in Congress is a black stain on his record: siding with the old white racists and NIMBYists by keeping LA's rail efforts stymied for a generation.

If there is one thing I've learned from following politics, it's that few things are obvious and the law of unintended consequences always applies. I'm not saying Waxman wasn't wrong here, but I'm not rushing to judgment. Do we know why he supposedly "stymied LA's rail efforts"? Do we know the whole story? Because if it's anything like being opposed to the idiotic California High Speed bullet train that Brown is pushing, I would give him kudos, not jeers. The bullet train is supported by Democrats and is supposed to be something that progressives are expected to favor, but the more you look into it, the more of a boondoggle it transpires to be. I hate to side with the Repubs in that case, but broken clock etc.. So yeah, I'm not going to leap in with tar and feathers in this case, without a whole lot more context, because I find it extremely unpersuasive that Waxman's motivation was to side with old white racists wrt. anything.
posted by VikingSword at 11:25 AM on February 13

VikingSword: "The bullet train is supported by Democrats and is supposed to be something that progressives are expected to favor, but the more you look into it, the more of a boondoggle it transpires to be."

You might have a point if new highway projects were subject to this same level of scrutiny, but they rarely if ever are.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:30 AM on February 13 [2 favorites]

I printed quite a few of Waxman's Oversight Committee reports in the 00's, both for my political science classes and leaving them in my university's student union to counterbalance the rhetoric from the Bush Administration.

I still have Bernie Sanders to keep me comforted that there are at least a few rational adults remaining in the Federal government.

Thanks for your hard work, Henry.
posted by JDC8 at 11:55 AM on February 13

I did not realize there was another moustache of justice!
posted by blackfly at 12:09 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

I was very proud when he was my congressman when I lived in West L.A.

In recent years he had veered rightward in some ways, such as supporting the dismantling of the post office.

Nevertheless, his record is impressive.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:16 PM on February 13

Turning his Awesomeness Index from 100% down at least to 95%, he could not have kept getting re-elected in that L.A. district without kowtowing to the MPAA and its oppressive copyright policies... At least they can't get to Bernie in Vermont...
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:41 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

This should prove interesting.

True, but moving up from the legislature is Ted Lieu^, who seems to have an edge in endorsements. (Sandra Fluke^, rumored to have been considering a run herself, will be instead seeking to replace Lieu.) Big shoes to fill, though.
posted by dhartung at 2:03 PM on February 13

Fluke basically was in the running for the 33rd just long enough to be given a seat at the table, it looked like.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:10 PM on February 13

In 1972 my family moved from Brooklyn to L.A.; two years later Henry Waxman was elected. Waxman has been my congressman for almost each of the past 40 years, and I've been voting for him for almost 30 of those years. I may not have agreed with every policy but I am proud to be his constituent. It's going to be very sad and strange to see a ballot without his name on it.

"I did not realize there was another moustache of justice"

Speaking of which.... Henry Waxman on The Daily Show.
posted by Room 641-A at 2:26 PM on February 13 [1 favorite]

This is a massive post and doesn't even touch a tenth of the stuff he's done if you count the reports he's gotten the GAO to produce. Government is about to get less nimbly progressive, there's no doubt about it.

I am very, very skeptical of hero worship, he may well have titanic flaws in other areas, but I know a lot of folks who will miss Waxman and I think he's probably one of the greats.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:38 PM on February 13 [2 favorites]

"Has anyone seen polling on Lieu vs. Gruel?"

There's no external polling yet. Lieu would be the favorite, though, since he's represented essentially that district in the statehouse. Lieu has also been looking to do something about the "troubled teen" camps and has been stymied by the reach of California, so this could be interesting on that front.
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on February 13

quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon: "welp. NOW we're fucked."

Save that for when Ruth Bader Ginsburg retires.
posted by double block and bleed at 4:40 PM on February 13 [5 favorites]

I think I'm in favor of term limits, but then again....
posted by BlueHorse at 6:14 PM on February 13

Waxman's been my rep for the past eighteen years. I weep for his departure, not only because he's done so much, but because the right to replace him is going to inundate me with campaign crap from everyone running for his seat.

Come on, Henry. One more term. Think of the trees. Please.
posted by RakDaddy at 7:14 PM on February 13

There should be a huge party for him on the Santa Monica Pier and everyone can wave to him as he flies over on the Goodyear blimp.
posted by Room 641-A at 8:52 PM on February 13

Matt Miller, he of the so-called "liberal case for Social Security cuts", is running for Waxman's seat.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:58 AM on February 15

Damn. He's one of the good ones.
posted by homunculus at 12:31 PM on February 16

Greuel releases internal polling showing a lead on Lieu.
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on February 18

Off the bat, I am a Canadian, who grew up in Europe. It is always amazing to me and to many north of the border, why some Americans are so steadfast in their conviction against Health Care. Your country has always struck me as "One for All, and All for One".
posted by gerberfranz at 2:59 PM on February 19

He once threatened to have Darrell Issa physically removed yt from an EPA Oversight and Government Reform hearing

Darrell Issa silences Democrats and hits a new low
posted by homunculus at 4:11 PM on March 5

Darrell Issa is the leading pioneer of new lows in government.
posted by klangklangston at 4:44 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]

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