On George Miller’s last day, Pelosi pays tribute

Assuming Congress passes the “CRomnibus” spending bill tonight to avert a government shutdown, today will be Rep. George Miller’s last day on the House floor. He’ll spend the next few weeks in the district, and when the new Congress is sworn in Jan. 3, Miller, D-Martinez, will be officially retired after 40 years in the House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, paid tribute Thursday to Miller and to another Californian retiring after four decades of service, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles.

“Thank you to the leader of our California Democratic delegation, Zoe Lofgren. Thank you for bringing us together this evening for a very bittersweet circumstance. That is to say: how proud we are to honor the leadership of two great giants of the Congress, Henry Waxman and George Miller; how sad we are that they are leaving us. I come to the floor, Mr. Speaker, today to join in celebrating two of the most accomplished Members of this great body.

“And when I say most accomplished, I’m not just speaking in the context of the present Congress. I’m talking about two of the most accomplished Members of this great body of all time. A pair of Californians with 80 years between them – 80 years of service in the House – retiring with an unparalleled record, certainly an unsurpassed record of legislative achievements to their name, Congressman Henry Waxman and Congressman George Miller.

“I’m proud to do that as a Californian, and I thank our Chairwoman, Zoe Lofgren, again for this opportunity. As they depart for new endeavors at the end of this session, which is in about 48 hours, each of them leaves a legacy of leadership that is felt in the lives of everyday Americans. And that’s so important. In doing so, they’re both pioneers.

Henry_Waxman“For four decades, Henry Waxman’s name has been synonymous with responsible action, extraordinary legislative skill, passionate public service, and bold leadership on behalf of the people of Los Angeles, who he represents, and the American people. Time and again, Henry has been the first to appreciate the seriousness of the challenges before us, and the first to bring forward solutions to solve them. Time does not allow, and other Members will mention so many accomplishments, but I just want to focus on from the start, this is what I saw up close and early: from the start, in the early dark days of the HIV-AIDS epidemic, Henry Waxman fought to invest in AIDS research, support treatment and care and prevention and pass the landmark Ryan White Care Act.

“Long before the rest of our nation awakened to the gathering storm of climate change, early on, Congressman Waxman worked to create bold new protections for the air we breathe, the water we drink, the earth we call home. From the first days of his long career, he recognized the urgency of delivering quality, affordable health care to all. And together with some of our other colleagues, it was with his leadership as Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee that we honored that commitment with the Affordable Care Act.

“Also working on the Affordable Care Act from his committee – the Education and Labor Committee – Chairman George Miller has left an indelible mark on the laws and the Members of this august body. George has been the model of a serious and substantive legislator, a champion for working people who has had his hand in some of the most innovative and important legislation of our time. Members over and over – some already have, others will – talk about his legislative accomplishment. I just will name some. I mentioned the Affordable Care Act; Lilly Ledbetter, the first bill signed by President Obama, to end discrimination in the workplace; the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the last bill passed by a Democratic majority; ending discrimination for women in the workplace and men and women in the military; Earned Income Tax Credit.

George Miller“There’s one thing I want to mention, and this is PAYGO. Because again, this is something I saw firsthand. George Miller put together the initiative for Pay-As-You-Go so that we were not increasing the deficit as we made investments for our future. It was 1982; we were at a mid-term convention of the Democrats in Philadelphia. George Miller had the resolution to pass PAYGO, very fiscally sound and responsible. The resolution passed. It was so revolutionary that they never had a mid-term convention again because he was really there not to make speeches but to make change. But in any event he made that change. It didn’t become effective, really, until several years later when President Clinton became President of the United States and we went on a “pay-as-you-go” basis. So whatever we were doing, we were not increasing the deficit. He’s been a deficit hawk, a very progressive deficit hawk, in the lead on that subject.

“So when he was doing the earned income tax cut, Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, ENDA – we haven’t passed it yet but George advanced it in the House any number of times, – early childhood education, lifetime learning – I keep coming back to the children. I have said that when people ask me what are the three most important issues facing the Congress, I say the same thing: Our children, our children, our children; their health, their education, the economic security of their families, the air they breathe, environment which they live a world of peace in which they can reach their fulfillment.

“No one in the Congress has done more for our children, our children, our children then George Miller, George Miller, George Miller. So not only his focus on the children but having them live in a world that takes them outside our country. So forceful was he for advocacy for children in other countries, for fairness and opportunity and social justice, that he became a subject of the Salvadoran death squads. They tried to search him down in the United States because he was such a fierce champion for fairness in their country as well.

“And so, here we are. Two great, very committed people. If you ask them what the secret of their success would be and how they’ve achieved so much, they will be modest – well, sometimes. But what they will both tell you separately is that, the guidance they give the rest of us: Just stick with it; just keep on working; just make sure that the other side – whoever that might be – knows you’re not going to go away, because you have a goal that is responsible; you have an urgency for the people and you will make sure that you make the difference.

“And in many ways we all live in a nation shaped, defined and strengthened by George Miller and Henry Waxman: their keen vision, abiding determination, courageous leadership have put them in the ranks of the greatest legislators in our history. When they leave this House, we can be certain that they will continue to use their extraordinary knowledge and talent in new venues and new ways to serve America’s children and families.

”As we acknowledge them and express our appreciation to them, we also have to acknowledge their spouses. Janet Waxman and Cynthia Miller have contributed 80 years of being spouses to Members of Congress – that’s really almost like 80 years each; that’s like twice as long as serving as to be a Congressional spouse, all the sacrifices that involved.

“Tonight we say a heartfelt thank you not only to George and Henry and voice our gratitude to them, but to the Waxman and Miller families for sharing these great men with our great nation. With that I yield back to the distinguished leader of our delegation. Thank you.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.