Rep. Henry Waxman, liberal lion, exiting after 40 years in Congress

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“I agonized over it, but I decided that after 40 years in Congress, with a record of accomplishment for which I take an enormous amount of pride, it’s time for somebody new, someone younger, to come in and carry on the fight for our district,” Waxman told KCRW’s Press Play.

In an interview with the L.A. Times, the 74-year-old lawmaker says time has come to do something else. Waxman will serve out his term but won’t run for reelection this fall.

Over the past four decades, Waxman has earned as a reputation as a tenacious fighter, a fierce partisan and one of the savviest lawmakers in the House. Among his achievements, Waxman co-authored the 2010 Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s health care reform law.

Henry Waxman’s district includes Beverly Hills, Santa Monica and Malibu.

Waxman, who is the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has also pushed through legislation cutting air pollution, cracking down on the tobacco industry and expanding Medicaid coverage for the poor – often battling members of his own party in the process. Waxman served for six years in the California Legislature before being elected to Congress.

His departure is expected to weaken California’s influence on the Hill and set off a scramble among local politicians trying to win his seat. Two independents have announced plans to challenge Waxman in the heavily Democratic district, but others will no doubt jump into the race in the coming days and weeks.

Speaking to KCRW’s Madeleine Brand, LA county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, said that Waxman should be replaced by a “Democrat that shares the progressive values that Henry Waxman has espoused for four decades.”

Below, video from a 1994 Congressional Hearing in which Waxman questions Big Tobacco (it gets most interesting around 5:30 min).