Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. (C-SPAN image)

(Bloomberg) – Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. – an architect of the bill that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) — has decided not to seek a 21st term this year, he said in a statement today.

As chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in 2009 and 2010, Waxman worked with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, also a California Democrat, to steer PPACA through the chamber.

“In all my years in politics, I felt the moral claim that this country has failed in not providing every American access to health care,” Waxman said in March 2010, the month Obama signed the legislation into law.

Waxman, 74, was elected in 1974 as part of a wave of Democrats who won their seats three months after Republican Richard Nixon resigned the presidency amid the Watergate scandal. The other remaining member of that group serving in the House continuously since then, Rep. George Miller, also of California, announced his retirement earlier this month.

Waxman took the helm of the Energy and Commerce panel by unseating, in a vote among House Democrats, Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich.

Waxman lost the Energy and Commerce chairmanship after Republicans won the House majority in the 2010 elections. Since then, he has served as the committee’s top Democratic member.

In 1994, as chairman of Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee, Waxman held hearings that put the tobacco industry under the spotlight. At one session that gained wide coverage, tobacco company executives testified under oath that nicotine wasn’t addictive. The hearings were credited with laying the groundwork for lawsuits that led in 1998 to a settlement in which major tobacco companies agreed to make payments to U.S. states to resolve claims that cigarettes caused public-health dangers.

Waxman is “tougher than a boiled owl,” then-Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican, said in 1990 after the two helped negotiate an agreement to revise clean-air laws.

Waxman was born in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Prior to taking his House seat in January 1975, he served six years in the California Assembly.

Waxman’s tally

Democrats are favored to keep control of Waxman’s 33rd District, which includes parts of the Westside and all of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Malibu and Redondo Beach. Obama won 61 percent of the district vote in the 2012 election.

Waxman took a career-low 54 percent of the vote that year against a wealthy political independent who spent about $8 million in a district reshaped by the congressional line-drawing process.

Waxman is the 30th House member who’s announced plans to retire at the end of the year or seek a different political office. Most of those congressional districts lean heavily to one party.

Miller, 68, the other “Watergate Baby” giving up his seat in the 2014 election, represents a San Francisco-area district. The other Democrat in the House first elected in 1974, Rep. Richard Nolan of Minnesota, served three terms and then left the chamber. He then returned after winning a seat in 2012.

Waxman’s former chief of staff, Phil Schiliro, recently returned to Washington to help Democrats overcome the damage done by problems with the rollout of the PPACA exchange system. Schiliro, who had moved with his family to New Mexico, previously served as the Obama administration’s congressional liaison.

–Editors: Don Frederick, Michael Shepard

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