We Are All Better for Representative Henry Waxman's Work


All Americans have benefited from the dedicated service of Representative Henry Waxman. In every battle and in every moment that mattered most, Rep. Waxman stood up for the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the wild places we cherish. On Thursday he announced he will retire from Congress when the legislative session ends next fall, and while we will miss his leadership and fiery commitment, we are grateful for all he has done to protect public health and the environment.

I have known Rep. Waxman for many years, and I have always admired his sense of fairness. He is a man of conscience who has summoned the executives of the wealthiest corporate polluters in history, looked them in the eye, and called them to account on behalf of the American people.

And he doesn’t back down. It took nearly a decade to draft and pass the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, but Rep. Waxman stuck with it because he knew it would improve people’s lives. The law he helped pass has cut smog, acid rain, and other cancer-causing air pollutants. The EPA estimates the Clean Air Act Amendments will prevent 230,000 premature deaths and 2.4 million asthma attacks by 2020.

Rep. Waxman’s skilled lawmaking – his ability to legislate and work out deals – has meant he could get concrete results. It’s a pragmatic approach that many in Congress would do well to emulate. Waxman and his powerhouse staff have used it to get things done and move America forward.

Rep. Waxman has brought the same tenacious resolve to the fight against climate change. In 2009, he achieved the historic breakthrough of passing national clean energy and climate legislation in the House. In 2013, he created a joint House/Senate task force to build public support for efforts to protect our children and grandchildren from the dangers of climate change. He has also helped unleash the solutions that cut carbon pollution—things like energy efficiency, wind and solar power, and cars that go farther on a tank of gas.

Even while he works to guide our nation into a cleaner, more sustainable future, Rep. Waxman has also defended against polluters who would take us back to darker, dirtier days. GOP lawmakers in the house voted more than 300 times to undermine critical safeguards in the past few years, but Rep. Waxman stood up—not alone, but reliably, forcefully, and effectively—against the single worst legislative attack on our bedrock environmental and public health laws.

We have come to count of Rep. Waxman’s rare combination of stalwart defense and visionary leadership. But we know others will be guided by his example—and the example of other environmental champions in Congress. I am confident we will join forces to carry on the work of making the air safer to breathe and the climate more stable, and we look forward to continuing to partner with Rep. Waxman as he finds new ways to serve the public and safeguard the environment.