U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles) addressed a crowd of approximately 75 people at the headquarters of the National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles on Jan. 13, and spelled out some of the major issues currently affecting Congress.
At the onset of the event, Waxman discussed the rampage in Tucson, Arizona on Jan. 8, where six people were killed and Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was critically wounded. Waxman said all members of Congress had been warned to take reasonable precautions following the shooting rampage, and he said both federal and local law enforcement agencies had taken steps to ensure his safety. Waxman added that he considers the lack of a federal assault weapons ban to be one of the major issues at the root of the rampage and other violence around the country. The federal assault weapons ban was passed in 1994 and expired in 2004 without being reenacted. Several attempts have been made to reenact the legislation, but so far, all attempts have failed. He added that the progress Giffords is making in her recovery is encouraging, as was the speech made by President Barack Obama on Jan. 12 in Tucson. Waxman also denounced the remarks by former governor Sarah Palin, who used the term “blood libel” in referring to members of the media who blamed her rhetoric for inspiring the suspect in the shooting.
“I don’t think any new laws need to be passed, I’ve been in government for 40 years, and I’ve never felt threatened. I think we have to look at it as an aberration,” Waxman said. “We have to take reasonable precautions, and perhaps the weapons ban would have helped. I hope the rhetoric will be replaced by honest debate, and I hope President Obama’s remarks will remind people to step back and understand that we need to talk in a way with others, that even though we might disagree, we don’t demonize.”
Waxman also addressed the current situation involving the repeal of federal healthcare reform legislation. The congressman said he expected the Republican majority in the House of Representatives to approve a repeal, which occurred Wednesday, but added that it will not be passed in the Democratic-controlled Senate or approved by Obama. Waxman added that healthcare reform is one of the most important issues currently affecting people, and that the repeal effort by the Republican members of the House is further evidence that more civil discussion needs to occur. He also challenged the Republican assertion that the legislation will cut jobs, and added that millions of Americans will benefit from the provisions in the healthcare bill.
“The Republicans took office in the House, and the first thing they said they wanted to do was make the whole process more open, more transparent,” Waxman said. “With the bill they want to pass to repeal healthcare reform, there has been no openness, no chance to offer amendments, and no opportunity for an open process.”
Waxman hailed many components of the healthcare reform legislation, including he elimination of the “doughnut hole”, which is the difference between the amount senior citizens are subsidized for prescription drugs and the actual cost of the drugs. He also applauded provisions that require insurance companies to offer coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, and to children. He added that if a repeal of the legislation were to occur, it would be a serious setback for the American public.
“They will take away the ability for people to have coverage, they will take away the ability for people to get insurance without lifetime limits,” Waxman said. “They will take away tax credits for small businesses, and they will make insurance more expensive for large businesses as well. That’s what they are arguing is the best solution, against what they describe as a ‘job-killing health bill’.”
Waxman also said he hopes that the federal DREAM Act will be resurrected, which would give students who have immigrated to the United States a chance at citizenship, and hailed the repeal of the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy as a major step in securing individual rights. Waxman also defended the federal stimulus bill, which he said generated thousands of jobs and pumped billions of dollars into projects throughout the country.
“It provided jobs for people who were about to lose them,” Waxman added “It wasn’t as strong as it could have been, but it was as strong as President Obama could have gotten.”
Waxman said in the days ahead, he will be working with other members of Congress to preserve the healthcare bill and move forward on other issues that directly affect the American people. He added that he hopes members of both political parties will put aside their differences and work together.
“We can stop them from doing bad things, and they can stop us from doing good things,” Waxman added. “It means we have to listen to one another, and I hope that’s what we do. The goal should be to figure out what we can do to improve the economy, and what will help the American people move forward.”