- 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-U.S. 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.
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. 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.”
In February 2007 DeFazio affirmed his support for a House Resolution opposing President Bush’s “troop surge” proposal to deploy an additional 21,500 soldiers 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, so as to “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’s Ed Schultz, that President Barack Obama should fire Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and National Economic Council Director Lawrence Summers for having failed to direct enough money from the Troubled Assets Relief Program toward government projects devoted to “rebuilding America’s infrastructure.” Such initiatives, said DeFazio, were “a tried and true way to put people back to work.”
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.
In October 2010, DeFazio denounced the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which held that corporations have a right to freedom of political speech. Charging that “they [the Court] have done more to undermine our democracy with their Citizens United decision than all of the Republican operatives in the world,” the congressman stated: “I’m investigating articles of impeachment against Justice [John] Roberts for perjuring during his Senate hearings, where he said he wouldn’t be a judicial activist, and he wouldn’t overturn precedents.”
In March 2019, DeFazio and Democratic Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii introduced the Wall Street Tax Act, which called for a 0.1 percent fee on all financial transactions (stocks, bonds, derivatives, etc.).
As matters of principle, DeFazio believes that:
- all women should have an unrestricted right to abortion-on-demand at any stage of pregnancy – subsidized by taxpayers, in cases of economic hardship;
- public and private employers alike should be legally required to implement affirmative-action hiring and promotion policies that give preference to African Americans and women, as compensation for historical injustices;
- the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is an excellent statute that can serve a strategic stepping stone toward the eventual implementation of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system;
- voucher programs designed to enable low-income parents to send their children to private schools rather than to failing public schools, constitute bad policy because they rob the public schools of vital resources;
- wealthy people should be required to pay much higher tax rates than those who earn less;
- U.S. defense spending should be scaled back dramatically;
- voter ID laws are, by and large, racially motivated attempts to suppress minority voting and should be eliminated; and
- an ever-increasing reliance on “green energy” sources such as wind and solar should be put in place, along with the phasing out of fossil fuels, the imposition of carbon taxes, and the raising of vehicle CAFE standards.
Americans for Democratic Action has consistently rated DeFazio’s 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.
Further Reading: “Peter DeFazio” (Votesmart.org, Keywiki.org); “DeFazio Speaks on Iraq [Troop Surge] Resolution” (2-15-2007); “The Progressive Gadfly: DeFazio Explains His ‘No’ on Stimulus” (TalkingPointsMemo.com, 2-13-2009); “Rep. DeFazio: Fire ‘Timmy’ Geithner” (Huffington Post, 3-18-2010); “Rep. Peter DeFazio Investigating Impeachment For Chief Justice John Roberts” (Huffington Post, 10-22-2010); “All You Need to Know about the Misguided Financial-Transactions Tax [the Wall Street Tax Act]” (National Review, 3-7-2019); Peter DeFazio’s Positions on Key Issues (OnTheIssues.org).
- National Review noted that middle-class investors would be hit hardest by this legislation: “A $10 additional charge on a $10,000 stock purchase adds 200 percent to the average trading cost of $4.95 per trade…. The American Retirement Association estimates that the net effect of this bill would be to increase 401(k) expenses by 31 percent…. No matter how small and deceptive the tax may be, there is only one source that the revenue comes from in this tax construct: From the investment returns of American investors.”