House Transportation Chair Peter DeFazio to retire

By Timothy Cama | 12/01/2021 04:20 PM EST

Peter DeFazio.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chair Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) will not run for reelection. Francis Chung/E&E News

Rep. Peter DeFazio, a progressive firebrand and chair of the House Transportation Committee, is retiring from the House after 36 years representing a southwestern Oregon district.

DeFazio’s announcement today that he won’t seek reelection in next year’s midterms is a major blow to Democrats. He is the 18th House Democrat so far this year to announce retirement ahead of an election in which the party is expected to sustain historic losses.

His departure comes weeks after President Biden signed into law the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a major $1 billion bill that included much of the “Moving Forward Act,” which DeFazio had worked on for years.

DeFazio, 74, will take with him decades of institutional knowledge on infrastructure, climate change, forestry and more, having previously served as the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee. He co-founded the Congressional Progressive Caucus in 1992 and chaired it from 2003 to 2005.

“It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being,” he said in a statement today.

“This was a tough decision at a challenging time for our republic with the very pillars of our democracy under threat, but I am bolstered by the passion and principles of my colleagues in Congress and the ingenuity and determination of young Americans who are civically engaged and working for change,” he continued.

“For 36 years I have fought corporate greed and special interests to benefit Oregon’s working families — from delivering affordable health care under the Affordable Care Act, to preventing the privatization and destruction of the Social Security safety net, to protecting our natural treasures for future generations, to fighting trade policies that undermine American workers, to holding industry and regulators accountable to improve aviation safety, to asserting congressional war powers authority to stop endless wars, to making historic job-creating investments in our roads, bridges, ports and more under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” he said in listing his accomplishments.

DeFazio long enjoyed wide margins in his election campaigns, but last year faced his hardest race in years with a challenge from Republican Alek Skarlatos, an Army National Guard veteran. DeFazio won by more than 5 percentage points.

Skarlatos is running again in 2022, though Oregon lawmakers redrew the district to be safer for Democrats.

“After 36 years of failure — burning forests, poorest congressional district in the state, partisan policies that have destroyed southwest Oregon — and turning his back on the people he was elected to serve Peter DeFazio is retiring,” Skarlatos tweeted today.