Friday, January 31, 2014

Waxman, Berman and Miller -- we will miss their leadership

Henry Waxman has announced he will not run again for his Congressional seat this year. He represents California's 33rd Congressional district, which is where I grew up. He attended UCLA a few years behind me. This is his 20th term in Congress. According to the Los Angeles Times
During a congressional career that began when Gerald R. Ford was president, Waxman became one of the Democratic Party’s most prolific and savvy legislators, focusing on issues related to healthcare and the environment. He played a central role — sometimes over opposition within his own party — in passing laws that dramatically cut air pollution, helped reduce smoking, expanded Medicaid coverage for the poor, reduced pesticides in food, made generic drugs more widely available, helped AIDS patients, promoted the development of drugs for rare diseases and improved federal regulation of nursing homes.
Howard Berman left Congress in 2013. He graduated from the same high school I did, a few years after me, and was at UCLA with Waxman, a fellow member of the university's Young Democrats. He served 15 terms in the House of Representatives. He lost an election in 2012 due to redistricting. The Los Angeles Times described him in the following terms:
 He is a liberal who has lent important support to Israel, consistently votes to protect the environment and has delivered for his district. He has served California in Congress since 1982 and enjoys considerable seniority, serving as the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the second-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. Those positions give Berman broad influence; he is one of Congress' most highly regarded foreign policy lawmakers and is a leading voice on intellectual property issues, a topic close to the heart of his constituents in the entertainment industry. Finally, though he has a long record of bipartisan achievement, he is supported by the overwhelming majority of the California Democratic congressional delegation, including both of the state's U.S. senators, as well as by Gov. Jerry Brown.
George Miller has also chosen not to run again this year.  He currently represents California's 11th Congressional district, having switched as a result of redistricting from the 7th Congressional District. These include part of central California. Miller is serving his 20th term in Congress. According to Politico
Nancy Pelosi’s strong right arm and one of the top Democratic legislators of his generation, is stepping down at the end of this year after four decades in Congress........Miller was a player in the passage of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 as well as the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 backed by then President George W. Bush and the future Speaker John Boehner. Miller helped write the last minimum wage increase with Kennedy in 2007, and through the years used his committees as a forum to highlight worker safety conditions in the coal, oil and apparel industries.
Having grown up in Los Angeles in about the same time as Waxman and Berman, and having attended the same schools, I feel some real linkage with them. I went to school at Berkeley for a couple of years, and that helps me to feel closer to Miller than I might have, since he grew up and was schooled in the Bay area.

We were all of an age to have been affected by the music of Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. As young men we all would have heard John Kennedy tell us to ask not what our country could do for us, but what we could have done for our country; we saw Martin Luther King lead a great crusade for human rights, and heard Bobby Kennedy speak on the evening of King's death. No wonder these politicians became active in Democratic politics in the 1960s, as did I.

Waxman and Miller came to Washington in the 1970s (as I did, to work on international development as a federal employee, and thus unable to participate in politics); Berman came a few years later. We all spent a great deal of our adult lives here.

The Congress has lost three liberal leaders, who have had great influence in health, environmental, foreign, and educational policy. I personally will miss knowing that they are in the Congress fighting the good fight. I fear the nation will miss their leadership, and their ability to work across the isle to advance a legislative agenda that the nation needs.

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