Lawmakers gave a House floor tribute to retiring California Democratic Reps. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanFDA lets vaping flourish as it eyes crackdown on cigarettes So-called ‘Dem’ ethanol bill has it all wrong Overnight Health Care: CEO of insurer lobby group stepping down | SEC charges Theranos founder with 'massive fraud' | Abortion fight holds up health deal MORE and George MillerGeorge MillerLawmakers honor retiring Calif. Reps. Waxman, Miller Who will stop Wal-Mart from 'wreaking havoc' on the American Dream? Warren puts pressure on Wal-Mart MORE, who each served for 40 years in Congress.

Both Waxman and Miller, who were elected in 1974, were particularly powerful committee chairmen during their tenures and helped author major legislation over the last four decades.

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House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will also be losing two of her closest allies with their retirements. 

"How sad we are that they are leaving us," Pelosi said. "I'm talking about two of the most accomplished members of this great body of all time."

Waxman became chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009 and played a central role in writing the 2010 healthcare overhaul. He has served as the committee's top Democrat since Republicans won the House majority. He also helped write major environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act. 

And from 1997-2009, Waxman served as the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee.

"When it comes to climate change, I think we can say he is the conscience of the Congress," Rep. John Sarbanes (D-Md.) said of Waxman.

Miller also played an influential role in the crafting of the 2010 healthcare law as the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. Before that, he helped write the No Child Left Behind Act in the early 2000s.

"George looks like a warm teddy bear. But much like a teddy bear, he is ferocious in protecting his children. All the children in this country," said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). 

Colleagues remarked upon the tangible impact of the policies Waxman and Miller crafted on Americans' lives.

"Each of them leaves a legacy of leadership that is felt in the lives of everyday Americans. And that's so important," Pelosi said.

Speier compared the depth of Waxman and Miller's legacies to their home state's signature colossal tree.

"Like the giant redwoods of California, these men are giants of the Congress," Speier said.