Longest-serving Jewish House Member, Henry Waxman, to Retire

Veteran Democratic congressman from California, 74, fought for health, environmental protection, women’s and gay rights, and strengthening the ties between the United States and Israel.

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Representative Henry Waxman, the dean of Jewish lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives, is retiring. Waxman (D-Calif.), 74, who was first elected to Congress from a Los Angeles-area district in 1974, will finish out his term, which ends on January 2.

“I am grateful for my supporters and allies, who have worked side-by-side with me to fight for issues we care about: health, environmental protection, women’s and gay rights, and strengthening the ties between the United States and our most important ally, the State of Israel,” he said in a statement Thursday.

Waxman has risen to leadership positions in the House, most recently as the senior Democrat on the powerful Energy Committee, which he chaired from 2009 to 2011. Waxman was perhaps most prominent as the chairman of the Oversight Committee during the last two years of the George W. Bush administration, convening hearings about the conduct of the Iraq War.

The longest serving Jewish House member, Waxman has taken a lead on pro-Israel issues, most recently in joining with Energy Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) to advance a bill that would increase cooperation with Israel in energy research.

William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America, said that Waxman devoted his career to "fulfilling the Jewish concept of tikkun olam - repairing the world. In ensuring the safety of food and drugs, working to promote affordable health care, and being a stalwart leader in building a strong U.S.-Israel relationship."

Rabbi Jack Moline, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, said the organization is "saddened by the news that our dear friend, the most respected Congressman Henry Waxman will not be seeking re-election. Known as the 'Dean of the Jewish Delegation,' Waxman has been a Champion of Jewish causes- Clean Air Act, climate change, food and drug safety, affordable health care, the plight of Holocaust survivors and the U.S.-Israel relationship."

Rep. Henry Waxman in Capital Hill officeCredit: AP

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