Let’s Keep DeFazio

Peter DeFazio was progressive long before AOC. He still is.

By Reps. Mark Pocan and Pramila Jayapal

In 1991, a small group of members of the U.S. House of Representatives banded together to fight for working families and advance progressive issues in Congress. The ideas on which they formed the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) are now the central values of the Democratic Party. 

The fire in the bellies of some of the founders burns on, but now in positions of power — Rep. Maxine Waters, then-Rep. (now Sen.) Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter DeFazio.

DeFazio wakes up every day with an urgency to order our national priorities in line with the priorities of the people, not the powerful and privileged few. He instilled that urgency and vision in the Congressional Progressive Caucus 

We are now the largest group in the House Democratic Caucus, focused on promoting a strong, progressive agenda:

• Fighting for economic justice and security for all

• Protecting and preserving our civil rights and civil liberties

• Prompting global peace and security

• Advancing environmental protection and renewable energy.

Democrats in Oregon’s 4th Congressional District should send DeFazio back to Congress because we need his leadership, tenacity, thoughtfulness, passion and fire to accomplish our agenda. 

He’s a climate champion in Congress and is among the first to take real, substantive legislative action to implement the goals of the Green New Deal Resolution as Chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Remarkably, there are still only 99 Democrats who’ve signed on to this critical resolution. 

It will be tough to move his transportation plan under the Trump administration and with climate change-deniers in Congress, but DeFazio’s experience as a negotiator and legislator make him the best person to get the job done. 

Just look at the COVID-19 rescue package. DeFazio negotiated a historic workers-first relief package which mandated that money going to the airlines must be passed on directly to employees. DeFazio’s negotiation ensured that 2.1 million Americans who work for airlines — those in baggage claim, customer service agents, flight attendants, IT workers, ground operations and so many more — would continue to remain employed, receive their salary, accrue benefits and stay on their employer’s health care plan. The DeFazio provision also enforced a cap on CEO salaries and that not a single penny of taxpayer dollars could go to share buybacks or stock dividends. It’s a model for how all COVID-19 relief packages should work.

DeFazio has been an early supporter of universal health care and Medicare for All. He’s an original co-sponsor of the Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act which would provide health care for the uninsured and cover out-of-pocket expenses for those on insurance during the pandemic. 

DeFazio was the only member of Congress from Oregon, and one of 67 in the House to vote “no” on the bigoted so-called Defense of Marriage Act in 1994, which legislated that marriage could only be a union between a man and a woman. It took more than two-decades for the U.S. Supreme Court to recognize the fundamental right to marry.

DeFazio is also known in Congress for taking on corporate greed and Wall Street welfare, which has earned him some powerful enemies over the years. He was the first member of Congress in history to be attacked by a dark money super PAC backed by a hedge-fund billionaire. 

What most people don’t realize is that the 4th Congressional District is a battleground. You wouldn’t know it based on DeFazio’s progressive values, but the Cook Partisan Voting Index has consistently rated this district as even. But thankfully, DeFazio has never backed down from taking on our progressive battles, even when it may risk losing votes in the November election. 

From opposing free trade agreements and the 2008 Wall Street bailout, to standing against our country’s endless wars, to opposing Supreme Court Judges who won’t uphold Roe v. Wade, Peter DeFazio champions our progressive priorities. Voters in May should cast their vote for the proven progressive Democrat, Peter DeFazio. 

Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin and Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington are co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

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