When Rep. Henry A. Waxman's retirement was announced Thursday at the annual House Republican retreat at a tony resort in Cambridge, Md., the room burst into applause, according to a member in attendance.
The joy over the long-serving California liberal's retirement is not just because he is a contentious figure among Republicans — although he certainly is. The move is also seen by Republicans as an admission by top Democrats that they have no chance of reclaiming the majority in the House this year.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden said he sees the high-profile retirement as a good sign for Republicans, who hope not only to retain their majority, but also pick up seats in this year's midterm elections.
"The House Democrats don't think they're going to be wielding the gavels," he told reporters at the GOP retreat. Waxman commanded respect from his counterparts on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Rep. Joe L. Barton, who chaired and served as ranking Republican on the committee opposite Waxman, said the Democrat will be hard to replace.
"The committee’s not going to be the same without him," the Texan said. "Waxman is very smart. He works very hard. He hires good people. And like I tell, when I was chairman and ranking member, when you’re up against Henry Waxman you’re up against the A team."