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DeFazio Stepping Down From Congress After 36 Years

December 2, 2021 by Dan McCue
DeFazio Stepping Down From Congress After 36 Years
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chair Peter DeFazio, right, speaks during a news conference with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., center, and Richmond (Va.) Mayor Levar Stoney, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Jacquelyn Martin /Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is stepping down at the end of the current Congress.

He told colleagues he decided not to seek a 19th term to have more time to look after his health and well-being after undergoing back surgery in October.

First elected to the House in 1986, DeFazio is the longest serving House Member from Oregon and the 65th-longest serving member of the House in U.S. history.

In a statement, DeFazio said he is leaving Congress with a deep sense of “humility and gratitude.”

“It has been the greatest honor of my life to serve as congressman for the Fourth District of Oregon,” he said. “For 36 years I have fought corporate greed and special interests to benefit Oregon’s working families.”

Among the accomplishments of which he said he was most proud were “delivering affordable health care under the Affordable Care Act, preventing the privatization and destruction of the Social Security safety net, protecting our natural treasures for future generations, fighting trade policies that undermine American workers, holding industry and regulators accountable to improve aviation safety, and asserting congressional war powers authority to stop endless wars.”

The icing on the cake, of course, for a lawmaker who spent so much time thinking and talking and working on infrastructure was the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which he said will make “historic job-creating investments in our roads, bridges, ports and more.”

After thanking his voters for putting their trust in him, DeFazio said “it’s time for me to pass the baton.”

“This was a tough decision at a challenging time for our republic with the very pillars of our democracy under threat, but I am bolstered by the passion and principles of my colleagues in Congress and the ingenuity and determination of young Americans who are civically engaged and working for change,” he said.

He also noted, as have other members who have bowed out of the 2022 election before him, that there are still 13 months to go before he departs.

During that time, he said, he will be “putting all of my efforts into … helping pass the Build Back Better Act that will bring down costs for families, create jobs, fight the climate crisis and help Americans get ahead.”

In addition to and often in concert with his work on infrastructure, DeFazio has been a consistent voice in the push for a more aggressive U.S. policy on addressing climate change and safeguarding the environment.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who shares many of DeFazio’s interests, said his colleague “blends all the best qualities of a top-notch legislator — he’s an effective, passionate and powerful advocate who always puts the best interests of his constituents first.” 

“Thanks to Peter DeFazio, roads, bridges and transportation systems in Oregon and nationwide are stronger, last longer and are cleaner and greener,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called DeFazio “an absolute force for progress” in a written statement, saying he’s “known and respected by all as a champion of sustainable, smart and green infrastructure, whose progressive values, passion and persistence have helped rebuild America and the middle class.”  

“His legislative successes — including expanding preservation and conservation efforts, protecting affordable health care, advancing tribal sovereignty, rebuilding our highways, ensuring aviation safety and, most recently, helping pass the historic, once-in-a-century Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Build Back Better Act — leave an outstanding legacy of progress for America’s children and future,” Pelosi said.

Upon learning of DeFazio’s decision, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., said she will run for chair or ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for the 118th Congress.

Norton is currently the most senior Democrat on the committee after DeFazio and chair of its largest subcommittee, the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit. 

“We all must thank Chair DeFazio for his devoted service to his district, his committee, and our country,” Norton said in a statement. “Furthermore, Chair DeFazio has been a strong supporter of statehood for the District of Columbia, for which I will always be grateful. I wish him many years of health and happiness in his next chapter.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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