MALIBU — The multipurpose room at City Hall last Sunday was filled with locals (mostly Democrats) interested in getting the latest Washington update from longtime U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman.

Malibu Democratic Club President Jean Goodman said this was the first time Waxman had spoken to the group in about four years. Goodman said Waxman has had “a very difficult schedule” since becoming chairman and then ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Waxman, a Democrat, is running for re-election in the newly configured 33rd District, which, with cities such as Malibu, Calabasas and Santa Monica, includes much of his current 30th District. Added to the new district are all or part of the beach communities from Venice all the way down to the South Bay and Palos Verdes. All California districts were redrawn last year after the 2010 Census.

Waxman wasted little time laying into his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election, political newcomer Bill Bloomfield. Bloomfield, a businessman, was formerly a Republican who re-registered as an independent about a year ago. Waxman described Bloomfield as a wealthy individual who spent a million dollars to get the 24,000 votes he received in last month’s primary election. The new 33rd District is heavily Democratic.

Waxman then turned his attention across the aisle. Perhaps seeking to distance himself from Congress’ low poll numbers, Waxman observed that in 37 years of service he “has never seen Washington as nasty and polarized as it is today… . These last four years, the Republicans didn’t want to find any common ground.”

Such was not always the case, Waxman said. In previous years, “when George H.W. Bush was in, he agreed to some tax increases. When you compromise, it becomes a win-win. Over the years, I’ve always welcomed input to my legislation from the opposition.”

His frustrations included the difficulty of passing the Affordable Care Act.

“Obama reached out to the Republicans. He brought them to the White House, held a forum on healthcare, brought in stakeholders, and modeled the plan after what Republicans had wanted. Healthcare should’ve been bi-partisan, but had to pass by two Democratic votes.”

Waxman said he approached the Republicans on issues concerning the environment and carbon emissions, proposing to change U.S. energy policy to include incentives for using renewable energy technologies.

“The response I got,” he said, “was that they didn’t believe in the science of global warming, so therefore, there wasn’t a problem… 271 anti-environmental votes have gone through the House in the past four years, but most haven’t passed.”

Waxman also came down on Republicans for constant use of the filibuster in the Senate, threatening not to raise the debt ceiling, trying to reduce the federal deficit during a recession and refusing to raise taxes for the wealthiest back to previous levels.

He ended by turning his attention to some of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

“Citizens United will allow corporations to buy our elections and never have to report where the money came from,” Waxman said. He also asserted that contrary to popular opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy “is not a moderate. He wrote the decision on Citizens United.”

“Part of the Republican strategy is that we can pay Americans a lot less money if they’re all desperate for jobs and have no power to bargain or negotiate. That’s part of the whole agenda for the Republican Party,” Waxman said. “They also want to fund tax breaks to billionaires by cutting services to the poorest of the poor.”

Waxman has been around the block in Washington, D.C. Elected to Congress in 1975, he served from 1979 to 1994 as chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health and the Environment. From 1997 to 2006, he served on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the principal investigative committee in the House of Representatives, and chaired the committee from 2007-09. During his time on the committee, it investigated everything from prescription drugs and government contracting to Enron. In 2006 and 2007, Waxman helped a local issue by investigating BHP Billiton and the EPA regarding a proposed LNG (liquefied natural gas) facility off the coast of Malibu.

Goodman said she was pleased with the turnout of 65 people on a Sunday morning, and got “very good feedback” from those attending. She found Waxman’s talk interesting “because it filled in some of the holes in the information we’ve received; and gave kind of a behind-the-scenes look at what’s been going on in Washington and why.”

A number of local dignitaries also attended the talk, including Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte, SMMUSD school board member Nimish Patel, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler and Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom.

This article first appeared in the Malibu Times.

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