Waxman's parting words: 'We need government'

Outgoing Rep. Henry WaxmanHenry Arnold WaxmanFeehery: Lessons learned from John Dingell Former Rep. John Dingell dies at 92 After Congress, staying in the fight MORE (D-Calif.) said on Tuesday that his decades in office should be remembered as proof that government can make a difference.

During what could be his final public remarks as a member of Congress, Waxman pointed back to updates to the Clean Air Act, mandatory labels for food and other laws passed during his tenure that he said are now accepted as common sense.

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“My message is government can make a difference,” he said during a conference on broadband Internet hosted by the Capitol Forum. “Government is important.”

“We need government,” he added. “We need government to act in the interest of the public.”

Waxman, who is stepping down from Congress this year after serving since 1974, used the event to urge the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to enact tough rules on net neutrality that would prevent Internet providers from slowing or blocking people’s access to websites.

He crafted legislation on the issue in 2010, but “couldn’t convince my Republican colleagues to settle this issue in the law.”

As a result, the FCC wrote regulations that were tossed out by a top federal appeals court earlier this year, prompting the agency to try its hand at new rules.

Any new legislative effort on Capitol Hill, Waxman said, would be more complicated now, given that the FCC is in the midst of writing new rules and Republicans are preparing to take over Congress.

“Now if they want to legislate, they’re going to have to come up with something that can win support from across the aisle,” he said.

“I’m not sure why it’s a partisan issue, but to a great extent at this point it is a partisan issue and we’ll have to see if that partisan divide can be bridged.”

Waxman is retiring from Congress after one of the most storied legislative careers in American history, racking up a long list of accopmlishments that made him a liberal hero.

The retiring Democrat said his record should give hope to supporters of tough rules.

“A lot of people look at that legislation now that is law and say that makes sense, who would dispute it?” he said, referring to the numerous public health laws under his belt.

“But it took years, even for the labeling law to pass.”