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Henry Arnold Waxman (born September 12, 1939) is an American politician. He has represented ( map) in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1975. Waxman, a Democrat, is considered to be one of the most influential liberal members of Congress. His district includes much of the western part of the city of Los Angelesmarker, as well as West Hollywoodmarker, Santa Monicamarker and Beverly Hillsmarker. Before his election to Congress, he served six years in the California State Assembly.

With the Democrats' victory in the 2006 midterm elections, Waxman became chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the principal investigative committee of the House. He was the committee's ranking Democrat from 1997 to 2007. In 2009, he began serving as the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after defeating Chairman John Dingell in a 137-122 secret vote of House Democrats on November 20, 2008.

Early life and private career

Born in Los Angeles, Californiamarker, Waxman attended college at UCLAmarker, earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1961 and a degree from UCLA's law school in 1964. After graduating, he worked as a lawyer. He was elected to the California Assembly in 1969 and served three terms.

In 1974, Congressman Chet Holifield announced his retirement after 32 years in Congress. Waxman won the Democratic nomination for the district, which had been renumbered from the 19th to the 24th after a mid-decade redistricting. This was tantamount to election in this heavily Democratic district. He has been reelected 16 times, never facing substantive opposition. He faced no major-party opposition in 1986, and was completely unopposed in 2008. His district has changed numbers three times in his tenure—from the 24th (1975-1993) to the 29th (1993-2003) to the 30th (2003-present). He is one of three surviving members of the large Democratic freshman class of 1975. The other two, George Miller of California and Jim Oberstar of Minnesotamarker, are also committee chairmen.

Before the Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in 1995, Waxman was a powerful figure in the House as chair of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health and the Environment from 1979. In this role he conducted investigations into a range of health and environmental issues, including universal health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, AIDS and air and water pollution.

According to his Web site, Waxman's legislative priorities are health and environmental issues. These include universal health insurance, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, tobacco, AIDS, air and water quality standards, pesticides, nursing home quality standards, women's health research and reproductive rights, the availability and cost of prescription drugs, and the right of communities to know about pollution levels. Also, he is known to be in favor of gun control, he was quoted as saying "If someone is so fearful that they are going to start using their weapons to protect their rights, it makes me very nervous that these people have weapons at all."

Waxman and his wife, the former Janet Kessler, have a son, a daughter, and four grandchildren.

Waxman was strongly critical of the Stupak-Pitts Amendment, which places limits on taxpayer-funded abortions in the context of the November 2009 Affordable Health Care for America Act.

Committee assignments

Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Waxman had a reputation for a vigorous approach to oversight long before becoming ranking Democrat on what was then the Government Reform Committee in 1997. He was well known for insisting that witnesses appearing before his subcommittee testify under oath, thus exposing them to perjury charges if they didn't tell the truth. For example, in 1994, he forced the chief executives of the seven major tobacco companies to swear under oath that nicotine was not addictive.

In 1998, he created a "Special Investigations Division" to investigate matters that he felt the full committee had neglected. This was possible because the committee has broad powers to investigate any matter with federal policy implications, even if another committee has jurisdiction over it. He has also harshly criticized the Republicans for ignoring their "constitutional responsibility" to conduct oversight over the government.

On the day after the 2006 elections, Waxman directed his aides to draw up an "oversight plan" for the panel. He had already let it be known that he wanted to investigate Halliburton, as well as its alleged malfeasance related to government contracts in Iraqmarker. It is very likely that he could also investigate the numerous scandals surrounding Jack Abramoff. This led to concerns among Democratic aides that the Government Reform Committee under Waxman would stage a repeat of the committee's performance under the Clinton administration, when it issued over 1,000 subpoenas. However, Waxman told Newsweek that he is interested in accountability and not retaliation.

On March 16, 2004, at Waxman's request, the Committee on Government Reform Minority Office published "Iraq on the Record, the Bush Administration's Public Statements on Iraq" a detailed and searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements made by Bush Administration officials about the threat posed by Iraq. It contains statements that were misleading based on what was known to the Administration at the time the statements were made. It does not include statements that appear mistaken only in hindsight. If a statement was an accurate reflection of U.S. intelligence at the time it was made, it was excluded even if it now appears erroneous.

In 2007, Waxman changed the committee's name from the Government Reform Committee to the "Oversight and Government Reform Committee," or the "Oversight Committee" for short.

Waxman and the Red Line

In 1985, Waxman sponsored a bill supported by affluent homeowners groups in his district to ban federal funding for the Red Line subway in response to a methane gas explosion in the Fairfax District. In 2005, a robust real estate market, multi-dwelling construction boom, and lack of public mass transit planning on the westside caused by Waxman's bill resulted in gridlock throughout Waxman's district. At the request of Los Angeles Mayor and LACMTA Board President Antonio Villaraigosa, Waxman agreed to lift the ban if a panel of five engineers found tunneling under the Miracle Mile stretch of Wilshire Boulevard to be safe. In October 2005, the panel decided that tunneling was possible, and on December 16, Waxman responded by announcing he would introduce a bill to the U.S. House that would lift the ban on federal money for subway tunneling in the district. This bill passed the House via unanimous vote on September 20, 2006.

Waxman maintains that the 1985 bill was sponsored in the interest of public safety and not, as some allege, to hinder access of the working classes in Southmarker and East Los Angeles to his affluent district. In a letter to the Los Angeles Times, Waxman cites the 2005 study: "The panel concurred as well that in 1985, the decision to hold further tunneling in abeyance was prudent, given the circumstances and extent of information and technology at that time. Much has changed since then to significantly improve tunneling and operation safety."

Jewish identity and politics

Waxman is proud of his "strong Jewish identity" and has drawn political conclusions from his exploration of the religion. "Judaism is about acting and doing the right thing, not simply believing in it or mindlessly following ritual," he said in a speech presented by the University of Southern Californiamarker's Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life. Waxman said he applies Jewish ethical values to his congressional service. He further said that the "Jewish values" of "human rights, social justice, and equal opportunities ... are synonymous with American values," and that such values "are in my opinion closer to a Democratic position." Saying it suffers from "a culture of corruption" and "has become obsessed with secrecy," he accused the American government of having abandoned these values. "(The) Republican leadership ignores presidential rules and norms and has no consideration for custom," he said.


Waxman's district includes Santa Monicamarker, Beverly Hillsmarker, Agoura Hillsmarker, Calabasasmarker, Hidden Hillsmarker, Malibumarker, West Hollywoodmarker, and Westlake Villagemarker as well as such areas of Los Angeles as West Los Angelesmarker, Fairfax, Pacific Palisadesmarker, Brentwoodmarker, Beverlywood, Topangamarker, Chatsworthmarker, Westwoodmarker, West Hills and Woodland Hillsmarker.

See also


  2. Special Investigations
  3. Committee on Government Reform Minority Office
  4. Democrats’ Challenge: Stay in the Center - Newsweek National News -
  5. Iraq on the Record
  6. Christine Pelisek, Red Line to Somewhere, LA Weekly, 3 March 2005

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