- Democratic Member of Congress
- Co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus
- Marched alongside radical protesters in Seattle during the 1999 World Trade Organization conference
Born in May 1947 in Needham, Massachusetts, Peter DeFazio served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1971. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from Tufts University in 1969 and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Oregon in 1977. That same year, he worked as an aide to Jim Weaver, then-congressman of Oregon’s Fourth District, centered on the city of Eugene.
After serving as a Lane County (Oregon) commissioner from 1982-86, DeFazio, a Democrat, ran for Weaver’s congressional seat when the incumbent announced his retirement in 1986. DeFazio won a hotly contested three-way primary race and then took the general election by a 54-to-46 percent margin. He has been re-elected every two years since then.
One of DeFazio’s leading campaign contributors over the course of his political career has been the American Association for Justice, formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. The members and political action committees of numerous powerful labor unions have also been highly supportive, notably the Carpenters & Joiners Union, the Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Machinists/Aerospace Workers Union, and the Teamsters Union.
In the House of Representatives, DeFazio in 1992 was an original co-founder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with Bernie Sanders, Ron Dellums, Lane Evans, Thomas Andrews, and Maxine Waters.
During the World Trade Organization meetings which were held in Seattle from November 30 to December 3, 1999, DeFazio marched in solidarity with thousands of union, environmental, anti-globalization, and anti-business protesters, many of whom ultimately engaged in violent rioting and looting. In subsequent protests, DeFazio blamed international corporations and financiers for the problems in developing countries.
In 2003 DeFazio served on the advisory committee of the Progressive Majority, a political networking group dedicated to electing leftist candidates to public office.
In 2005 he ran for the U.S. Senate seat that Republican Robert Packwood had vacated amid scandal, but was beaten by the better-funded Portland congressman Ron Wyden. That same year, DeFazio joined the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus.
In 2006 DeFazio was one of just 37 House Members who voted against the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act prohibiting 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 measure was supported by 361 House members and passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.
In February 2007 DeFazio affirmed his support for a House Resolution opposing President Bush’s proposal to deploy an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq in an effort to turn the tide of the war back in America’s favor. Denouncing Bush’s “failed strategy” in Iraq, DeFazio called for all U.S. servicemen to be brought home within a year because “doing so would boost the Iraqi government’s legitimacy and claim to self-rule, and force the Iraqi government to take responsibility for itself and its citizens.”
In February 2009 DeFazio was one of only 9 House Democrats who chose not to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known as the “Stimulus Bill.” DeFazio attributed his “Nay” vote to his frustration over tax-cut compromises which his fellow Democrats had made in order to win support from moderate Republicans in the Senate. “I couldn’t justify borrowing money for tax cuts,” he said.
DeFazio stirred controversy in mid-November 2009 when he suggested, in an interview with MSNBC commentator Ed Schultz, that President Barack Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers for having failed to use enough of the funds from the Troubled Assets Relief Program for government projects devoted to “rebuilding America’s infrastructure.” Such initiatives, said DeFazio, were “a tried and true way to put people back to work.” “We may have to sacrifice just two more jobs [those of Geithner and Summers] to get back millions for Americans,” he added.
On January 27, 2010, DeFazio was one of 54 Members of Congress who signed a letter exhorting President Barack Obama to use diplomatic pressure to end Israel’s blockade of Gaza – a blockade which had been imposed in order to prevent the importation of weaponry from Iran and Syria.
DeFazio describes himself as a “populist progressive.” Americans for Democratic Action has consistently rated his voting record as 90-100 percent on the left side of legislation. For an overview of numerous key votes DeFazio has cast during his career in Congress, click here.
For additional information on Peter DeFazio, click here.