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DeFazio, influential legislator on transportation issues, to retire

By | December 1, 2021

Oregon Democrat, head of House Transportation and Infrastructure committee, has served 18 terms

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Trains Washington Watch logoWASHINGTON — Peter DeFazio, the Oregon Democrat who chairs the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, has announced he will retire after serving 18 terms in Congress.

Oregon Public Radio notes the 74-year-old DeFazio’s committee chairmanship allowed him to play a major role in shaping the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed last month.

Rep. Peter DeFazio
Rep. Peter DeFazio

DeFazio’s announcement prompted tributes from public transportation officials.

Amtrak President Stephen Gardner, a former U.S. Senate staffer, issued a statement saying, “As a champion for transportation, and in particular for Amtrak and passenger rail, we’d like to thank Chair DeFazio for his unwavering support throughout his many years of service. With a passion for sustainably expanding our nation’s transportation infrastructure, his work will benefit rail passengers for decades to come.”

Paul P. Skoutelas, CEO of the American Public Transportation Association, said in a statement that DeFazio “has played an indispensable role in advocating for public transit, passenger rail, and all American infrastructure over a remarkable 36-year career. He has been an indefatigable advocate for access to affordable and reliable public transportation for all … APTA has had no better friend in Congress than Peter DeFazio and we wish him all the best in the future. He truly represents the best of Congress and is the model of a true citizen statesman. The industry would not be where it is today without his tremendous efforts.”

DeFazio has served on the Transportation and Infrastructure committee since arriving in Washington, and at various times served as the top Democrat on four of the committee’s six subcomittees. His focus on transportation and infrastructure was a defining characteristic, colleagues said.

“He’s one of the most influential members of Congress on infrastructure, and I think I know a little something about that,” U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) told Oregon Public Radio. “It will be a tremendous loss to lose the longest-serving member of Congress in Oregon’s history.”

Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told Politico that DeFazio was “one of those here who wisely decided to master the details of transportation and his guidance time and again has been essential on these big transportation issues.”

6 thoughts on “DeFazio, influential legislator on transportation issues, to retire

  1. He nearly lost to a war veteran in the last election who spent a fraction of his campaign budget. Some of his recent policies were getting rolling eyes in some of the committees reviewing his latest bills. He will be missed because he was the only one in the house who took the time to get familiar with national transportation policy and was not afraid to consult with other Dems on what it meant (and even some Repubs).

    And because in some (not all) circles of Congress, knowledge is power, he held sway over large swaths of transporation policy.

    As far as railroads go, his new counterpart in the executive branch (STB) Marty Oberman should provide a good counter voice on rail policy. Depending on the next election, leadership will probably fall to Sam Graves (R) Missouri.

    If the Dems win the house it will go to Eleanor Norton from DC or Eddie Bernice Johnson from Texas.

    1. Along with his home state senator Ron Wyden, Pete DeFazio is one of about a dozen Democrats in Congress that have anything at all going for them. Being myself a railfan who hangs out in LaGrange Illinois, I was furious when moderate Democrat Representative Dan Lipinski of the western suburbs lost the 2020 Democrat primary to one of the communists who have taken over the Democrat Party. The only way to save this country is to get rid of the Democrat – Communist Party, bring in the Republicans, and build from there. Once the Republicans take over Congress in 2023 and hopefully the White House in 2025, we can work with them on transportation and infrastructure issues.

      Here’s a name for you: the late Secretary of Transportation and before that governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, John Anthony Volpe. Volpe hoodwinked President Dirty Dick Nixon to get out of the way of the founding of Amtrak. Volpe’s party? Same as Nixon, his boss: – Republican.

      1. Unfortunately Charles, Both the Republicans and Democrats have changed dramatically since those days. The “Rockefeller Republicans” also known as the progressives in the GOP back in the 1970’s were pretty much pushed aside by Reagan Republicans and eliminated their voice by Newt Gingrich in the Contract with America. As for the Dems, the centrist (Blue Dog) Dems that still had a good perspective on national goals have all retired and left politics due to the growing stridency in Congress. So what we have are fewer voices in the middle that were good at perspective and compromise, and both have been replaced by dogma magnets with little about the public good and more about their religion. We the US has had this happen before and we grew out of it and hopefully we will once again.

  2. John and Charles, the political center has moved to left since Nixon. So much so, that Reagan Republicans are now considered “radical fight wingers”, and the Democrats are in the middle of an inter-party feud. Yes, the Republicans have had inter-party struggles, but at present, probably because they are in the minority, they are feuding less in public.

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