U.S. Rep Peter DeFazio, Chair of the House T&I Committee, won’t seek re-election

Dec. 2, 2021
His House colleagues, as well as representatives from the transit and passenger rail industry, hailed his years of service as a ‘champion for transportation.’

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4), who served 36 years in the U.S. House of Representatives including as the current Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he would not seek re-election in 2022.

Rep. DeFazio called his time in Washington, D.C., the “greatest honor” of his life and thanked his constituents for putting their trust in him.

“It’s time for me to pass the baton to the next generation so I can focus on my health and well-being. 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,” said Rep. DeFazio. “I still have a lot of work to do in my remaining 13 months and I’ll be putting all of my efforts into that work, including helping to pass the Build Back Better Act that will bring down costs for families, create jobs, fight the climate crisis and help Americans get ahead.”

Rep. DeFazio introduced the INVEST in America Act this year that passed through the House and was amended in the Senate, which included a name change to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This amended bill was passed in the House and signed into law as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal that provides the transit industry with $107 billion and passenger rail with $102 billion over five years.

Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said, “As a champion for transportation, and in particular for Amtrak and passenger rail, we’d like to thank Chair DeFazio for his unwavering support throughout his many years of service. With a passion for sustainably expanding our nation’s transportation infrastructure, his work will benefit rail passengers for decades to come.”

American Public Transportation Association (APTA) President and CEO Paul Skoutelas said Rep. DeFazio “played an indispensable role in advocating for public transit, passenger rail and all American infrastructure” during his tenure as an elected representative.

“He has been an indefatigable advocate for access to affordable and reliable public transportation for all, and most recently, has been instrumental in our efforts to secure both COVID-19 emergency relief, as well as once-in-a-generation investments in public transportation in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. He also continues to work tirelessly on behalf of public transit and high-speed rail investment included in the Build Back Better Act,” said Skoutelas. “Chairman DeFazio’s commitment to our industry has been unwavering and he has stood with us through thick and thin. APTA has had no better friend in Congress than Peter DeFazio and we wish him all the best in the future. He truly represents the best of Congress and is the model of a true citizen statesman. The industry would not be where it is today without his tremendous efforts.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi called Rep. DeFazio “an absolute force for progress” and hailed his legislative wins that “leave an outstanding legacy of progress for America’s children and future.”

Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-2), a senior member of the House T&I Committee, said, “Without Pete’s leadership, we would not be able to say that from here on out, every day will be infrastructure day. The passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will form only part of his legacy as a Chair of the committee and as a Member of Congress.”

Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10), who serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials, said, “Chairman DeFazio’s outstanding leadership in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has been an inspiration to all of us who serve on it. Thanks to his exceptional efforts, Americans will have better roads, stronger and safer bridges and a modern rail system to use throughout the country.”

What’s next for the House T&I Committee

Rep. DeFazio’s departure will leave a prime leadership spot open on a committee with heavy influence on policies impacting the transit and passenger rail industries.

U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said shortly after Rep. DeFazio’s retirement announcement that she would pursue the position of chair or ranking member of the House T&I Committee for the 118th Congress. Del. Norton currently serves as chair of the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit and is also the most senior Democrat on the House T&I Committee and DeFazio.

Seniority does matter when it comes to seeking the chair of a House committee, but more important is which party holds the House majority after the 2022 elections. Should Democrats retain their majority, Del. Norton would need approval of the Democratic Caucus to serve as committee chair. Should this scenario play out, she would be the first woman, as well as the first woman of color to chair the committee.

Should Republicans take the majority in the House, Del. Norton could be named ranking member and the chair would most likely go to Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6), who currently serves as ranking member of the House T&I Committee.

However, the news of Rep. DeFazio’s retirement is still fresh and it is likely more candidates will throw their hats in for consideration for committee chair.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.