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The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works

The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works

From Publishers Weekly

After 35 years in the House of Representatives, Waxman, the mustached congressman from California, offers a very readable insider's account of his 35 years in the House. The longtime governmental watchdog crusaded for AIDS awareness, the Clean Air Act and stronger tobacco regulations as chairman of the Health and Environment subcommittee. The book chronicles the strategies and horse trading necessary to enact these regulations, including coalition building, and remaining informed on the countless issues affecting his constituency. Waxman doesn't romanticize his position, and admits that the qualities that have best served him have been patience, a knack for finding allies... and the ability to persevere. His conviction that government can better the lives of citizens is uplifting and strengthened by his record of implementing . The book frequently reads too much like a to be fully engrossing, but the explanation of the workings of a widely misunderstood government body is a public service from a committed civil servant. (July)
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"Avery readable insider's account... Waxman's conviction that government can better the lives of citizens is uplifting and strengthened by his record of implementing landmark legislation... the explanation of the workings of a widely misunderstood government body is a public service from a committed civil servant." (Publishers Weekly )
A welcome look at the internal workings of the legislative branch-- essential for political junkies. (Kirkus
"Pretty faces and promising careers tend to flash across our local political firmament with the frequency of shooting stars -- and with about as much effect. But for more than two decades, the most consequential elected official in Southern California has been a short, bald, decidedly mustached congressman from Los Angeles' Westside named Henry Waxman . . . the congressman, now 69, has, along with his collaborator Joshua Green of the Atlantic magazine, produced something unexpected and rather fine. THE WAXMAN REPORT is part compelling memoir, part fascinating, shrewd civics lesson and part bracing statement of practical idealism. It's impossible to put down and a joy to read -- a model, in fact, of lucid exposition.
If your plans for the long Independence Day weekend incline toward thoughts on the state of the nation, skip all the patriotic kitsch and read this book . . . The timing is fortuitous, because Waxman is more than ever at the center of events, since the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which he chairs, shares jurisdiction over the energy and healthcare issues key to President Obama's agenda . . . One of the pleasures of THE WAXMAN REPORT is tracing the origins of these signature traits to his Los Angeles boyhood . . . Most of all, it's a detailed inside account of just how the nation's laws are made. It succeeds as storytelling because Waxman and Green have structured most of the book as a series of narrative examples built around major bills. Thus chapters are titled, for instance, 'HIV/AIDS and the Ryan White Act,''The Orphan Drug Act,''The Clean Air Act' and 'The Tobacco Wars.' There's a fascinating chapter on baseball and steroids as well. Most of all, there's a persuasive declaration of faith in that particular brand of liberalism that the late Arthur Schlesinger called 'the politics of remedy.' As Waxman puts it, 'In Boyle Heights, everyone thought of government as an institution that helped people' . . . As this heartfelt, important little book will remind its readers, there's a lot to be said for the faith of our fathers." (Los Angeles Times )

Product Description

At a time when some of the most sweeping national initiatives in decades are being debated, Congressman Henry Waxman offers a fascinating inside account of how Congress really works by describing the subtleties and complexities of the legislative process.
For four decades, Waxman has taken visionary and principled positions on crucial issues and been a driving force for change. Because of legislation he helped champion, our air is cleaner, our food is safer, and our medical care better. Thanks to his work as a top watchdog in Congress, crucial steps have been taken to curb abuses on Wall Street, to halt wasteful spending in Iraq, and to ban steroids from Major League Baseball. Few legislators can match his accomplishments or his insights on how good work gets done in Washington.
In this book, Waxman affords readers a rare glimpse into how this is achieved-the strategy, the maneuvering, the behind-the-scenes deals. He shows how the things we take for granted (clear information about tobacco's harmfulness, accurate nutritional labeling, important drugs that have saved countless lives) started out humbly-derided by big business interests as impossible or even destructive. Sometimes, the most dramatic breakthroughs occur through small twists of fate or the most narrow voting margin. Waxman's stories are surprising because they illustrate that while government's progress may seem glacial, much is happening, and small battles waged over years can yield great results.
At a moment when so much has been written about what's wrong with Congress-the grid­lock, the partisanship, the influence of interest groups-Henry Waxman offers sophisticated, concrete examples of how govern­ment can (and should) work.

About the Author

Congressman Henry Waxman has represented the Los Angeles area of California since 1974. He is the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce. During his thirty-plus years in Congress, he has helped craft addressing health and the environment.

From The Washington Post

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com Henry Waxman is to Congress what Ted Williams was to baseball -- a natural. As you read this nicely proportioned, fast- paced book, you realize that Waxman was born to be a member of the House, ideally the chairman of an important committee. He's just five-foot-five, he's woefully short of hair, he's neither charming nor funny, but none of that has mattered. Waxman has been one of the most effective members of Congress for 35 years. Ego can be the fuel on which the legislative branch runs, and Waxman is in no danger of running out of gas. He makes this clear in the first pages of his book, ably co-authored by Joshua Green, a senior editor of the Atlantic Monthly: "Nearly every worthwhile fight in my career began with my being badly outmatched," Waxman confides. "The other guys always have more money. That's why Congress is so important. Run as it should be, it ensures that no special interest can ever be powerful enough to eclipse the public interest." This is the voice of David, whose career has featured the slaying of one Goliath after another. That is the theme of this book, which in fact does not explain "how Congress really works," but rather tells engaging stories about how Henry Waxman has made Congress work, sometimes, for the causes he has embraced. Of course, Congress has seldom ensured that the public interest prevails over special interests -- quite the opposite. But Waxman has indeed been responsible for some important moments when a version of the public interest did prevail. In these pages Waxman teaches the importance of good staff work, patience and the willingness to make unexpected alliances to advance your causes. He believes in oversight hearings, Congress's most basic tool, but one that has fallen into disrepair through disuse. He begins and almost ends the book with what must have been his favorite hearing of all time, one he held on April 14, 1994. On that occasion Waxman presided over the self-immolation of the seven chief executives of America's biggest tobacco companies, who, despite mountains of compelling evidence to the contrary, testified unpersuasively, under oath, that they never believed smoking cigarettes was addictive. This hearing helped destroy the reputation of American tobacco companies and surely contributed to new controls on smoking and the mammoth tobacco settlement with the states in the years that followed. Waxman's accomplishments are impressive. With symbolic support from Ryan White, a 13-year-old who contracted AIDS from a blood transfusion, Waxman pushed federal aid for victims of the disease through Congress, over ferocious, homophobic opposition from conservative members. His legislation banned smoking on airplanes; his bill forced food manufacturers to list ingredients on processed foods. On all of these occasions he built alliances, often bipartisan alliances, that made victory possible. Waxman sees his victories as evidence that Congress is a force for good, but he refuses to acknowledge the role of Congress in undermining its own standing in the country. Instead, he blames Watergate and the Vietnam War for producing "such widespread disillusionment with government that the American people eventually lost faith in the Congress as well." But the corrosive influence of money and lobbying and the failure of one Congress after another to address the country's biggest problems have done much more to undermine the reputation of our legislative branch than Watergate and Vietnam. To his credit, as the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Waxman is currently addressing one of the nation's most complex crises: climate change. "The Waxman Report" explains, at least, how Congress can work, and it is fun to read. You finish it with gratitude to the voters of Beverly Hills who keep returning this ornery fellow to the House. More Henry Waxmans on both sides of the aisle would give us a much better Congress than the one we've got.
Copyright 2009, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved.

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