PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Arguably Oregon’s most influential lawmaker is in his final six months in office and he worries for the state of the nation’s democracy once he leaves.
In 1987, Rep. Peter DeFazio first arrived in Washington D.C., representing southwestern Oregon. He started working up the chain of the House Natural Resources Committee. The last three years, he’s chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the largest committee in the lower chamber.
He was the lead sponsor of the keystone piece of legislation of the Biden administration’s term so far, the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in the fall.
He thinks the lesser focus on ready-to-go projects and more longer term structural fixes of the nation’s transportation network will limit its contribution to inflation.
“Inflation is going to hurt because the materials we’re going to use are more expensive, so we’re not going to get the bang for the buck we had hoped with an extra $550 billion in transportation, but it will make a dent in long term problems,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio leaves Congress in a time of tumult in the nation’s capital. He believes the January 6 hearings, investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol building, are “hard-hitting” and having an impact on the few Americans who remain undecided on what occurred. What comes next he hopes is shoring up the electoral system from the vulnerabilities exposed by former President Donald Trump in attempting to overturn the election results.
“We can hope at least the Senate is talking about reforming the presidential voting count so that you can’t say the vice president can just ignore it and bring his own people in,” DeFazio said.
DeFazio is enouraged the hearings have “awakened” the U.S. Department of Justice to issue subpoenas, reminding they have more power than the subpoenas that have come from the committee.
He also sees other threats on the horizon for the nation’s representative government.
“We’re on a knife’s edge on whether we’re going to have a representative democracy in four years,” DeFazio warned in an interview with KOIN 6 News.
DeFazio is concerned over a piece of legislation the Supreme Court will take up next session. It argues state legislators have ultimate authority over election rules, regardless of a state’s constitution.
“It’s a theory, its ultra-fringe. No legitimate constitutional scholar believes in it, but it would be the final straw in our democracy and we’ll never have a fair election again,” DeFazio said.
The full interview with DeFazio can be viewed in the video above.