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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Waxman and the Class of 1974

In 1974, the Watergate scandal led to the election of a large class of House Democrats who pledged to reform the institution.  Henry Waxman (D-CA), a member of that class, announced his retirement today.  He and fellow Californian George Miller, who has also announced his retirement, are the last two "Watergate babies" in the House.

Waxman gained fame for his work as a committee chair, and therein lies an irony.

The class of 1974 sought to rein in committee chairs because the newcomers thought that the old bulls were obstacles to enacting a progressive agenda.  Years later, Newt Gingrich and his GOP allies learned from Democratic colleagues such as Waxman, and when they got the chance, they too empowered the leadership at the expense of the committees.

Thus the Democratic class of 1974 served as a role model for the GOP class of 1994.

The Republicans took it a step further by forbidding any GOP member from serving more than six years as a committee chair.  So because of the movement that Waxman helped launch, there won't be any more Waxmans anytime soon.