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Longtime California Rep. Henry Waxman, D, will retire from Congress at the end of this term, he announced Thursday.

Waxman, a top lieutenant of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who would become chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee if Democrats were to win a majority in this fall's midterm elections, will leave Capitol Hill after more than 40 years.

"In 1974, I announced my first campaign for Congress. Today, I am announcing that I have run my last campaign. I will not seek reelection to the Congress and will leave after 40 years in office at the end of this year," he said in a statement.

The congressman's decision is a reversal from Dec. 11 of last year, when Waxman publicly said he'd seek another term.

Waxman follows another Pelosi ally and would-be chairman, Rep. George Miller of California, in announcing his retirement. Their decisions can be seen as a reflection of low confidence among Democrats about their prospects for retaking the House this November.

Waxman's announcement could also renew speculation about how much longer the 73-year-old Pelosi wants to stay in Congress. The Democratic leader has previously spurred questions about her age and retirement, though.