Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has become the 19th Democratic lawmaker to announce he won’t seek reelection at the end of his current term.
The Oregon Democrat has served in Congress for 36 years and currently chairs the House Transportation Committee. (RELATED: Senior House Democrats Announce Retirement From Congress)
DeFazio’s decision to step down comes as House Democrats hope to defy history in next year’s midterms and expand their razor-thin majority.
Though DeFazio currently represents a swing seat in Southwest Oregon, the redistricting process is about to make it less competitive for Republicans. Far worse than a vacant seat for Democrats is the loss of DeFazio’s leadership experience and comprehensive knowledge on infrastructure.
As POLITICO reports:
DeFazio told POLITICO that he was retiring to “focus on my health and well-being,” but his announcement comes on the heels of a frustrating few years in which DeFazio’s dreams of an ambitious, environmentally focused overhaul of the nation’s highway and transit program were sidelined for a major infrastructure bill that went only as far as Republicans in the Senate would agree to go.
In addition, Democrats are widely expected to lose their slim majority in the House in 2022, the kind of factor that frequently helps motivate lawmakers to retire. He will be the 19th House Democrat so far to have announced plans to leave after 2022.
For DeFazio, who underwent back surgery in October, a return to the minority would come at a time of rising partisan and personal rancor in the House. Even as chair he has sparred frequently in public with the committee’s ranking member Republican Sam Graves (R-Mo.) over “green new deal” climate priorities and countless other issues. (The two say they get along well personally.)
DeFazio’s departure leaves a hole atop the committee, where he has led the Democrats since 2015. He is an undisputed leader on transportation and infrastructure issues and his meticulous, detailed knowledge of often wonky and technically complicated topics will be hard to replace. His departure is also bad news for greens and progressives, who will be hard-pressed to find a successor as enthusiastic about blunting climate change or as well-positioned to do something about it.
Pundits of all stripes know that Republicans have a golden opportunity to reclaim majorities in both chambers of Congress. But are you worried at all that they might blow it—and why? Share your thoughts with us below!