May 16, 2020 — U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is the longest-serving Congress member in Oregon history.
First elected to represent Oregon’s District 4 in 1986, DeFazio has served as a member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee since 1987, and in 2019 was elected to the chairmanship of that committee.
The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard, highways and transit, water resources, railroads, aviation and economic development.
DeFazio has previously served as the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, where he focused on sectors of the economy including ocean, fisheries, federal lands and energy resources.
DeFazio had little to say to Siuslaw News regarding his May 19 primary challenge from Doyle Canning, instead focusing on what the congressman said he sees as the extreme danger posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. All ballots are now due at Lane County ballot drop boxes. In Florence, can be dropped off outside the Florence Municipal Court, 900 Greenwood St.
In his role as chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure, DeFazio said he has been disappointed in the leadership provided by President Donald Trump during this crisis and has been very public with those criticisms. His most recent disagreement with the executive branch centers around airplane travel and the safety of passengers that travel while ignoring Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines regarding personal behaviors related to hygiene.
DeFazio’s staff shared a letter the congressman sent to an airline trade association requesting a stringent mask-wearing policy on all American airlines.
“Who among the CEOs of your association’s members would want a member of their own family to be assigned to a middle seat between two potentially contagious passengers in the middle of a global pandemic?” DeFazio wrote in his letter. “I appreciate that even in the absence of leadership from the executive branch, many airlines have voluntarily taken on measures to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 to protect crewmembers and those who still need to travel during this health crisis. I urge you to continue to put health and well-being first.”
The pandemic has been a major focus of the representative for the past few months. His contributions to the latest version of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act legislative support package were tailored to address concerns regarding medical workers, small businesses, Native Peoples and lower-wage earners.
DeFazio has given particular focus to assuring workers in small businesses are receiving the support envisioned when the CARES package was passed.
“The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has provided Oregon’s small businesses a critical lifeline as they deal with the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. But it was clear that more assistance to small businesses was needed,” DeFazio said. “With passage of this legislation, we’ll add more than $300 billion to the PPP, and I’m proud that we were able to secure $60 billion for small and mid-sized banks, credit unions and community-based lending institutions to ensure that unbanked and underserved businesses that have been pushed to the back of the line can access this vital program.”
The safety of medical workers has also been a subject of heated discussion across the nation and there was some additional assistance added to this week’s third CARES installment that included what DeFazio considered to be critical.
“While I believe even more funding is needed, I’m also pleased the bill includes $75 billion in relief to hospitals and healthcare providers to cover expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19, and $25 billion to expand our nation’s COVID-19 testing capacity, $11 billion of which will go directly to states and localities to help them bolster testing shortfalls in their communities,” he said. “Widespread testing is the key to fighting this virus, reopening the economy and, above all else, protecting the health and wellbeing of Americans so that we can safely begin to resume our normal lives.”
The latest relief package also secures $37 million for direct support to Oregonians working in the construction and fabrication sectors of the economy.
DeFazio has also pushed back strongly against complaints from the Trump administration regarding the work done by the U.S. Postal Service.
“Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Americans and businesses around the country have depended on a reliable Postal Service, especially customers in rural areas and seniors who count on six-day and door-to-door service for their mail and prescription medications,” said DeFazio. “Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis has threatened the survival of the USPS and placed its vital services for the millions who rely on it at risk. In any subsequent relief legislation, Congress must ensure that this vital agency has the financial security to continue its essential operations.”
DeFazio also recently received an important endorsement from Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, in his primary bid.
Nelson believes that many jobs were saved due to his work in this area.
“I want voters in this district to know that the historic workers-first relief package that saved 2.1 million jobs is thanks to Congressman DeFazio,” she said. “He was our first, loudest and most dedicated advocate in Congress.”
DeFazio told Siuslaw News he is also concerned that municipalities facing reduced revenue from taxes garnered through room taxes and reduced spending in their communities may be unable to provide basic services for their communities.
“Today, our county governments are not only dealing with an unprecedented uptick in the demand for essential services but are doing so during an unprecedented economic downturn that has caused considerable hardship and growing shortfalls in tax revenue,” DeFazio said. “These realities place a strain on the budgets of our counties at a time when citizens need their support the most. Moving forward, we must empower our local governments with greater flexibility to spend federal relief dollars as they see fit, including to help make up for the loss of expected tax revenues or other unexpected budget shortfalls.”
For more information about DeFazio, visit defazio.house.gov.