By Edwin Folven, 11/01/2012
Congressman meets with constituents at senior center
Congressman Henry Waxman (D-California) was greeted with a standing ovation last Saturday when he appeared at the Claude Pepper Senior Center on La Cienega Boulevard, a little more than week before he faces re-election in the newly drawn 33rd Congressional District.
Waxman spoke to the seniors as part of the “Claude Pepper Day” celebration, honoring the late senator and congressman from Florida who was a staunch advocate for senior issues. Waxman said Pepper was a mentor who should be a role model for everyone in government because of his support of programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Pepper served in the U.S. Senate from 1936 to 1951, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1963 until his death in 1989.
“He believed in helping senior citizens and all people of the United States, and he wanted the Democratic Party to have those ideals,” Waxman said. “He fought for a government willing to act positively to make life better for the people. Claude Pepper knew Social Security and Medicare meant so much to everybody. He knew families would be so relieved to know that there was a safety net below them.”
Waxman cautioned, however, that the programs Pepper fought for are currently being threatened by Republicans in Congress. He cited attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and alter Social Security, both programs the congressman said he would fight to preserve if re-elected on Nov. 6.
“These ideas are under attack in ways we have never seen before,” Waxman said. “The Republicans are trying to take Social Security and privatize it. They are also trying to overturn the accomplishments that have been made with healthcare. [Pepper] would be so horrified to know that the presidential nominee for one of the main parties is advocating for taking away Medicare and replacing it with a voucher system — taking away the guarantee that Medicare has been since 1965.”
Waxman said the upcoming election is crucially important for senior citizens and others who rely on assistance in obtaining healthcare. He said many members of the Republican Party are out of touch with the struggles faced by middle-class and low-income Americans who struggle to make sure their families are covered.
“It’s not going to be there unless we protect it,” Waxman added. “If we take Medicare benefits away, there aren’t many insurance companies who will cover an 85-year-old woman with pre-existing conditions. We have to fight against those who would take away those ideals. People need to know if they are paying into Social Security, they will get it, and when they pay into Medicare, they will get it. I will never vote for replacing Medicare with a voucher.”
Waxman punctuated his speech by stating that current government leaders need to be allowed to continue their work. He said President Barack Obama is “one of the best presidents in my lifetime,” and credited him with having the courage to work together with members of Congress to pass the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Waxman said if he is re-elected to the House of Representatives, he will work to ensure the healthcare act is fully implemented. The congressman added that he agrees it will take a collaborative effort, and he will work with members of both parties to ensure all Americans receive health insurance.
“It’s been a very long time, a very long fight,” Waxman added. “We will not turn our back on people who cannot get health insurance, and people who become more sick because they can’t get health insurance.”
Many attendees said they support Waxman and President Obama in the fight to preserve healthcare. Miracle Mile resident George Epstein stood up and told Waxman, “You have convinced me to vote for President Obama.”
Phillis Dudick, former director of the Claude Pepper Senior Center, remarked that both Waxman and Obama embody Pepper’s legacy.
“[Pepper] was an example of what good government can be, and what good government can do for the people,” Dudick said. “We need to stand behind those ideals and get behind the people who are fighting for seniors today.”
Dr. Carroll Estes, a board member for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, added that she fully supports Waxman’s efforts.
“Congressman Waxman is a wonderful example of the kind of leaders people need, certainly people at this center,” Estes said. “We are completely for Obamacare.”
Waxman added that he hopes local voters will back his re-election campaign, and vowed to continue the work he has been doing since he was first elected to Congress three decades ago.
“I have continued to fight for what I believe in. I have been consistent,” Waxman said. “I am proud of my accomplishments, and I think there are still things I can do. That is why I am running for re-election.”