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Eshoo, longtime Silicon Valley lawmaker, announces plans to retire

Veteran Democratic lawmaker was a close ally of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo arrives at the Rayburn House Office Building on Sept. 15, 2022. Eshoo on Tuesday became the latest veteran lawmaker to announce plans to retire at the end of this term.
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo arrives at the Rayburn House Office Building on Sept. 15, 2022. Eshoo on Tuesday became the latest veteran lawmaker to announce plans to retire at the end of this term. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

California Rep. Anna G. Eshoo on Tuesday announced plans to end her 30-year congressional career at the end of this term.

Eshoo, 80, has long been a power player in the Democratic Party, particularly when it comes to health and technology policy, and is a close ally of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Silicon Valley representative’s hometown paper, the San Jose Spotlight, first reported her retirement.

“As the first woman and the first Democrat to ever represent our district, I’m very proud of the body of bipartisan work I’ve been able to achieve on your behalf in Congress,” Eshoo said in a video announcement, noting that 66 of the bills she’s proposed have been signed into law by five presidents.

News of her retirement comes just after another prominent California Democrat, Tony Cárdenas, announced he wouldn’t return to Congress after his term ends. Counting Eshoo, 31 lawmakers (21 Democrats and 10 Republicans) have announced plans to leave office, either to retire or to seek another office.

Both Eshoo and Cárdenas represent seats in solidly Democratic districts. But Eshoo’s retirement will also prompt a race to replace her as head of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee. Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., and Cardenas were next in line and are both retiring.  

Eshoo took over the helm of the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee in 2019 and played a key role in Democrats’ efforts to address prescription drug prices, expand access to health insurance and expand public health infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was a big proponent of Democrats’ efforts to get Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, which was passed as part of the 2022 reconciliation bill.

She has been very involved in advancing biomedical research and calling for more funds to go to the National Institutes of Health. More recently, she helped push for the launch of a new agency to advance research and development: the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, often referred to as ARPA-H. Eshoo also was heavily involved in the passage of a 2016 law associated with biomedical research and President Barack Obama’s “cancer moonshot.”

Eshoo also led the passage of a key pandemic preparedness law in 2006 and its subsequent reauthorizations.  

But with her roots in Silicon Valley, much of Eshoo’s career has been in tech policy. During her time in Congress she also spent six years as ranking member of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.

Eshoo has been a leading voice on issues relating to the open internet and has criticized the online spread of misinformation. Pelosi called Eshoo “the godmother” of net neutrality, the movement to keep internet service providers from favoring one type of content over another.

She also teamed up with then-Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., on a proposal to alter a 1996 law, commonly known as Section 230, which shields websites and online platforms from being held liable for third-party content, but the legislation ultimately did not advance.

She has also advocated broadband access, teaming with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward J. Markey on bicameral legislation to direct the Federal Communications Commission to update the National Broadband Plan and analyze the effects of the pandemic on broadband policy.

She married her two interests during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she rallied against social media companies for not stopping the spread of medical misinformation.  

Even as she announced her plans Tuesday, a handful of Energy and Commerce Committee health care authorizations remain in limbo, including the reauthorization of the pandemic preparedness bill, the reauthorization of the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program and bipartisan legislation to address the global spread of HIV/AIDS.

“As my last year in Congress approaches, I will continue my work with vigor and unswerving commitment to you,” Eshoo said in her retirement video.

Sandhya Raman and Jessie Hellmann contributed to this report.