|Chair of the House Transportation Committee|
January 3, 2019
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Oregon's 4th district
January 3, 1987
Peter Anthony DeFazio
May 27, 1947
Needham, Massachusetts, U.S.
|Education||Tufts University (BA)|
University of Oregon (MA)
|Branch/service||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1967-1971|
|Unit||Air Force Reserve Command|
Peter Anthony DeFazio (born May 27, 1947) is the U.S. Representative for Oregon's 4th congressional district, serving since 1987. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district includes Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Roseburg, Coos Bay and Florence. He is the dean of Oregon's House of Representatives delegation and a founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. A native of Massachusetts and a veteran of the United States Air Force Reserves, he previously served as a county commissioner in Lane County, Oregon.
DeFazio was born in 1947 in Needham, Massachusetts, a suburb of Boston. He credits his great-uncle with shaping his politics; as a boy, that great-uncle almost never said "Republican" without including "bastard" (or "bastud," as it sounded in the Boston accent) at the end. He served in the United States Air Force Reserves from 1967 to 1971. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University in 1969 and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oregon in 1977.
In 1986, DeFazio ran for Oregon's 4th congressional district, vacated by retiring incumbent Democratic congressman Jim Weaver. DeFazio narrowly won in a competitive three-way primary against State Senators Bill Bradbury and Margie Hendriksen 34%-33%-31%. He won the general election with 54% of the vote.
He did not face another contest nearly that close until 2010, winning every election before then with at least 61 percent of the vote. He has forged a nearly unbreakable hold on a district which is only marginally Democratic on paper, due almost entirely to the presence of Lane County, which has almost half the district's population. The district narrowly voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, and supported Hillary Clinton by only 0.1 percentage point in 2016.
DeFazio won 82% of the vote over two minor party candidates.
After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, it was reported that DeFazio was under consideration for nomination as Obama's Secretary of Transportation. However, fellow U.S. Representative Ray LaHood, a Republican, was named to the post in December 2008.
In 2010, DeFazio was challenged by Republican Art Robinson and Pacific Green candidate Michael Beilstein. As a result of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a so-called Super PAC group called The Concerned Taxpayers of America paid $300,000 for ads attacking De Fazio and $150,000 for ads attacking Frank Kratovil of Maryland. It was not revealed until the mid-October 2010 quarterly FEC filings that the group was solely funded by $300,000 from Daniel G. Schuster Inc., a concrete firm in Owings Mills, Maryland, and $200,000 from New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer, the co-head of Renaissance Technologies of Setauket, New York. The FEC filings prior to then listed only a Capitol Hill address and Republican political consultant Jason Miller as treasurer. According to Dan Eggen at The Washington Post, the group claims "it was formed in September 'to engage citizens from every walk of life and political affiliation' in the fight against 'runaway spending.'" The only expenditures were for these ads.
DeFazio won with 54.5% of the vote, his lowest winning percentage since he was first elected in 1986.The Oregonian stated that the reelection of DeFazio to his 13th term was more notable for the amount of outside money spent on the campaign than the candidates themselves.
In September 2011, the National Journal cited DeFazio as an example of "swing-district Democrats seeking reelection in 2012," and who, in "begin[ning] to focus on their reelection bids after Labor Day...are increasingly calculating how close is too close to an unpopular President Obama." It also noted that DeFazio's district "nearly went for Republican George W. Bush in 2004."
DeFazio has a progressive voting record. In 1992, DeFazio was a co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with Bernie Sanders, Ron Dellums, Lane Evans, Thomas Andrews, and Maxine Waters, and was its chairman from 2003 to 2005.
In October 2011, DeFazio demanded that the U.S. Department of Labor strengthen restrictions on the hiring of foreign guest workers for forestry jobs intended for unemployed U.S. citizens. "Over the past year it has come to light that several contractors exploited loopholes in the H-2B visa process to intentionally hire foreign workers, rather than available Americans, for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act-funded jobs on Forest Service lands in Oregon. This is unacceptable," DeFazio wrote to the Secretary of Labor. "Taxpayer money was spent to hire foreign workers while unemployed Oregonians were denied these jobs. The Department of Labor owes it to the American taxpayer and the over 13 million unemployed Americans to make sure this can never occur again."
DeFazio issued a statement condemning President Trump's January 2017 executive order restricting visits to the U.S. from certain Muslim countries. "President Trump's ill-conceived and unlawful executive order uses false rhetoric and preys upon Americans' fears without doing anything to address the real terrorist threats facing our nation," said DeFazio. "Instead, it sends a dangerous message that Muslims are not welcome in America, alienates our allies, and serves as a recruiting tool for ISIS and other terrorists groups. This irresponsible action puts our nation at risk and stands in opposition to the ideals that our country was founded upon."
In June 2018, DeFazio, along with other members of Congress from Oregon, demanded that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) permit individuals held at a federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, under the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance policy" to make free telephone calls to arrange legal representation.
He voted against the Telecommunications Act of 1996--one of only 16 congressmen to do so. DeFazio particularly objected to a provision that would have deregulated the cable television industry. According to DeFazio, many of his fellow Democratic congressmen later realized "they were idiots" for backing the bill.
In 1995, he challenged President Bill Clinton's stance on Bosnia, claiming Clinton and his Cabinet did not make a convincing claim for the operation.
DeFazio has shown a propensity to vote against legislation that would increase the military power of the United States. In 2000, he voted no on legislation to create a national missile defense network, describing the system as a "comic book fantasy." He has consistently voted against the Patriot Act, including its inception after 9/11 and the recurring reauthorization bills, arguing that it infringes on the civil rights of Americans. He also voted against the USA Freedom Act, which reauthorized certain provisions of the Patriot Act in modified form. He voted multiple times to set an itinerary for exiting Iraq and bringing the troops home.
DeFazio voted against the 2006 Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act, which banned U.S. aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government "until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, and accepts all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements." The bill won the support of 361 House members and was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.
In 2015, DeFazio was one of 19 members of Congress to sign a letter urging Secretary of State John Kerry to "prioritize the human rights of Palestinian children living in the Occupied West Bank in the bilateral relationship with the Government of Israel." The letter called Israel's treatment of Palestinian children "cruel, inhuman and degrading" and an "anomaly in the world." In 2017, he was one of 10 members of Congress who introduced a bill that would "require the Secretary of State to certify that United States funds do not support military detention, interrogation, abuse, or ill-treatment of Palestinian children." DeFazio and his fellow sponsors stated that "the Israeli military detains around 500 to 700 Palestinian children between the ages of 12 and 17 each year, and prosecutes them before a military court system that lacks basic and fundamental guarantees of due process, in violation of international standards."
In 2008, DeFazio and California Representative Pete Stark signed a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi proposing a one quarter of one percent transaction tax on all trades in financial instruments, including stocks, options, and futures. Subsequently, DeFazio introduced the "No BAILOUT Act."
Somewhat controversially, DeFazio declined to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, voting against the final stimulus package on February 13, 2009. He was one of only seven Democratic House members to vote "nay" on the bill. DeFazio said that his vote was due to his frustration over compromises made to win support from moderate Republicans in the Senate. "I couldn't justify borrowing money for tax cuts," he said, referring to a bipartisan group's decision to cut funding for education and infrastructure initiatives he had supported in favor of steeper tax reductions. He also advocated that the U.S. Senate change its cloture rules, doing away with the filibuster.
DeFazio, speaking to press after the exchange, said that he was honored that Obama recognized him and the issues that mattered to his constituents.
DeFazio made headlines in mid-November 2009 when he suggested in an interview with MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz that President Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers. "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get back millions for Americans," said DeFazio. The comment made top headlines at progressive news blog The Huffington Post. DeFazio also suggested that a formal call by the Congressional Progressive Caucus for Geithner and Summers to be removed might be forthcoming. A year later he called for the impeachment of Chief Justice John Roberts because of the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
During his tenure, DeFazio has butted heads with fellow Democratic politicians, including President Barack Obama, on key Democratic legislation. In December 2010, DeFazio told CNN that the White House was "putting on tremendous pressure" about legislation extending the Bush tax cuts, with Obama "making phone calls saying this is the end of his presidency if he doesn't get this bad deal." A White House spokesman (Tommy Vietor), however, told The Hill that Obama hadn't "said anything remotely like that" and had "never spoken with Mr. DeFazio about the issue."
In November 2010, DeFazio called on President Obama to fire economic adviser Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on the grounds that they were too favorable toward Wall Street. "We think it is time, maybe, that we turn our focus to Main Street -- we reclaim some of the unspent [TARP] funds, we reclaim some of the funds that are being paid back, which will not be paid back in full, and we use it to put people back to work. Rebuilding America's infrastructure is a tried and true way to put people back to work," said DeFazio. "Unfortunately, the President has an adviser from Wall Street, Larry Summers, and a Treasury Secretary from Wall Street, Timmy Geithner, who don't like that idea." In sum, "We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs to get millions back for Americans."
In August 2011, DeFazio stated that the President lacked the fight to follow through on the restoration of the Bush tax cuts, citing the pressure placed on him by the Republicans as the reason. DeFazio, along with fellow congressman Dennis Kucinich and Senator Bernie Sanders, stated that it would be good for the Democratic Party if the President faced a meaningful primary in which all the issues would be aired out.
In October 2011, Think Progress noted that DeFazio, "Echoing the demands of the Occupy Wall Street protesters,...is proposing to tax the trading of stocks, bonds, and derivatives. DeFazio, along with his Senate co-sponsor Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), has proposed the tax several times in the past. But this time around, the idea is getting a boost of momentum from the popularity of a similar measure in Europe, as well as renewed national media focus on Wall Street profiteering as a result of the 99 Percent Movement."
DeFazio opposed the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America That Works Act of 2014 (H.R. 4899; 113th Congress), a bill that would revise existing laws and policies regarding the development of oil and gas resources on the Outer Continental Shelf. The bill was intended to increase domestic energy production and lower gas prices. DeFazio argued that the bill would not solve the true cause of high gas prices which he blamed on "Big Oil in the United States and speculation on Wall Street." DeFazio called the bill the "drill everywhere" bill.
In a 2016 article for The Hill, DeFazio stated that, since 1958, the FAA "has been the model for aviation systems around the world, and it has set the gold standard for aviation safety." This state of affairs, he argued, was being threatened by the Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization (AIRR) Act, which "would shift air traffic operations to a private corporation and leave the FAA's critical safety functions subject to congressional appropriations." DeFazio warned that a privatized system, such as the ones already in existence in Canada and the United Kingdom, would not work in the U.S., which has "by far the busiest and most complex airspace in the world," and would "jeopardize aviation safety" by putting air traffic control in the hands of "private interests with eyes trained on balance sheets."
The following is an incomplete list of legislation that DeFazio has sponsored:
After Senator Bob Packwood resigned in early September 1995, DeFazio ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate in a special primary, losing to 3rd District Congressman Ron Wyden.
DeFazio had been mentioned as a possible candidate for the seat of Senator Mark Hatfield, who announced after the special primary election that he would not seek re-election in 1996. However, faced with the prospect of having to take on well-funded millionaires in both the primary and general election, DeFazio announced in February 1996 that he would not run.
|Year||Democratic||Votes||%||Republican||Votes||%||Third Party||Party||Votes||%||Third Party||Party||Votes||%||Other||%|
|1986||Peter DeFazio||105,697||54%||Bruce Long||89,795||46%||56||0%|
|1988||Peter DeFazio||108,483||72%||Jim Howard||42,220||28%||32||0%|
|1990||Peter DeFazio||162,494||86%||No candidate||Tonie Nathan||Libertarian||26,432||14%||426||0%|
|1992||Peter DeFazio||199,372||71%||Richard Schulz||79,733||29%||194||0%|
|1994||Peter DeFazio||158,981||67%||John Newkirk||78,947||33%||273||0%|
|1996||Peter DeFazio||177,270||66%||John Newkirk||76,649||28%||Tonie Nathan||Libertarian||4,919||2%||Bill Bonville||Reform||3,960||1%||7,058||3%|
|1998||Peter DeFazio||157,524||70%||Steve Webb||64,143||29%||Karl Sorg||Socialist||2,694||1%||276||0%|
|2000||Peter DeFazio||197,998||68%||John Lindsey||41,909||31%||David Duemler||Socialist||3,696||1%||421||0%|
|2002||Peter DeFazio||168,150||64%||Liz VanLeeuwen||90,523||34%||Chris Bigelow||Libertarian||4,602||2%||206||0%|
|2004||Peter DeFazio||228,611||61%||Jim Feldkamp||140,882||38%||Jacob Boone||Libertarian||3,190||1%||Michael Marsh||Constitution||1,799||0%||427||0%|
|2006||Peter DeFazio||180,607||62%||Jim Feldkamp||109,105||38%||532||0%|
|2008||Peter DeFazio||275,133||82%||No candidate||Jaynee Germond||Constitution||43,133||13%||Mike Beilstein||Pacific Green||13,162||4%||2,708||1%|
|2010||Peter DeFazio||162,416||54%||Art Robinson||129,877||44%||Mike Beilstein||Pacific Green||5,215||2%||524||0%|
|2012||Peter DeFazio||212,866||59%||Art Robinson||140,549||39%||Chuck Huntting||Libertarian||6,205||2%||468||0%|
|2014||Peter DeFazio||181,624||59%||Art Robinson||116,534||38%||Mike Beilstein||Pacific Green||6,863||2%||David L. Chester||Libertarian||4,676||2%||482||0%|
|2016||Peter DeFazio||220,628||55%||Art Robinson||157,743||40%||Mike Beilstein||Pacific Green||12,194||3%||Gil Guthrie||Libertarian||6,527||2%||476||0%|
|2018||Peter DeFazio||208,710||56%||Art Robinson||152,414||41%||Mike Beilstein||Pacific Green||5,956||2%||Richard Jacobson||Libertarian||5,370||1%||443||0%|
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Oregon's 4th congressional district
| Chair of the House Transportation Committee|
|Party political offices|
| Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority