Two of my favorite members of the House of Representatives have announced they will retire at the end of this session — George Miller and Henry Waxman.
Both have been strong advocates of the social safety net and of health reform. Without them and their tireless efforts, there would be no Affordable Care Act.
I met Rep. Miller back in the late 1980s when I was a reporter attending a conference on family issues at the Watergate Hotel. This was back when Gannett would pay to send its reporters to conferences and seminars.
I hadn’t heard much about Rep. Miller, but his presentation impressed me. He talked about women — and men — having choices such as job sharing and part-time work to give parents more time with family. He talked about the Family Leave Act, which then-President Reagan refused to sign.
I paid a lot more attention to him after that, and he was and still is consistently progressive. When liberal was a dirty word, he was proud to be one. He never backed off his belief that all people deserve a decent life and that government can help more people achieve it.
I got to meet Henry Waxman last Oct. 1, when I participated in a press conference in Washington. I was surprised at his height, for one thing. I don’t know why, but I always thought he was much taller. Perhaps it was the magnitude of his influence in progressive policy that made him seem larger than life.
Miller and Waxman both were first elected during the Watergate era. Both of them went up against titans of industry, including the tobacco industry in 1994.
The two were among the crafters of the Affordable Care Act, which was as much the product of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s relentless efforts as it was the president’s. Waxman said that the law was the realization of a lifelong dream.
It was an honor to stand with them on Oct. 1, and to thank them in person for the work they have done over the years.
Miller commented that we both were young the first time we met. With all the battles going on now between people of reason and the far right wing, it’s enough to make anyone want to get the hell out of Washington.
I know there are younger members who will rise to take their places, but I will miss these two of the most progressive voices in the House.