Making his case

Congressman Peter DeFazio speaks at a town hall before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. DeFazio recently pushed to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package he says will benefit rural Oregon.

Congressman Peter DeFazio agreed the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could have been handled better, but pointed most of the blame to the Republican administrations over the last two decades.

During a virtual town hall last week, DeFazio discussed several issues going on in the nation's capital and across Oregon. DeFazio said he much prefers in-person town halls but due to the recent surge of COVID-19, he said in person would be too dangerous.

"We've all seen on television the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan," DeFazio said. "First of all, Oregon was heavily involved with our National Guard units multiple times. Remember, the key objective was to eliminate or at least cripple Al Queda and to get Osama bin Laden, which we did."

DeFazio said the problems in Afghanistan really began when that mission changed.

"It could have been better," he said. "The whole world was behind us after 9/11. We could have defied history, but Donald Rumsfeld moved us to Iraq to change the course."

As fas as leaving Afghanistan and allowing the Taliban to take over, DeFazio said it would have happened regardless of who was president.

"This was inevitable," he said. "President Trump cut a deal with the Taliban for withdrawal by May 31. President Biden extended that a little longer. This could have been planned better. We could have done a better job getting Americans out and getting Afghans out who provided such a tremendous service to our troops and our diplomats. Now, they're trying to make up for that, and hopefully they will succeed."

While DeFazio said there is a lot of work to be done in Congress, he said there have already been a lot of successes since Biden took office.

"It's already been a productive Congress," he said. "We passed the American Rescue Plan in March without a single Republican vote. With the assistance of the plan, we've created 4 million jobs in the last six months, the most robust economic growth in more than 30 years."

DeFazio also applauded some more legislative victories.

"I finally got the harbor trust fund freed up after a couple of decades of work, which will mean we'll be able to keep our ports better dredged on the Oregon Coast and around the country, making it safer for commercial fishing, for recreation and for large harbors like Coos Bay to better stimulate the economy and bring in better commodities."

While there have been some successes, DeFazio said there is still work to do.

"The next thing on the agenda is the infrastructure bill," he said. "I've been working really hard with the administration and the Senate to try to move the bill that's long overdue. The federal government has not made a significant investment in our crumbling infrastructure in a couple of decades."

While DeFazio said he hopes something gets done quickly, he said the bill that came out of the Senate is not the answer.

"The so-called bipartisan infrastructure bill out of the Senate concentrates solely on transportation issues, wastewater, drinking water, lead pipes and broadband," DeFazio said. "I was just on a call with the president, and we're looking at a major program for housing coming out of the banking committee in the House. Maxine Waters is in charge of that committee and she has long been committed to affordability. She's also been committed to rental assistance and mortgage assistance programs. I don't know the details yet. Her committee is writing it."

In response to a question, DeFazio said he could support legislation that stopped unvaccinated people from flying, even on domestic flights.

"Domestically, some of the airlines oppose this," DeFazio said. "The Biden administration is looking at it. The TSA and other groups worry what that will bring about. I wish we could do more. If I was president, I would kick the FDA in the butt. You've got low-down bureaucrats holding up formal (vaccine) approval. There are some 4 to 6 percent who are holding out until it's fully approved."

On Monday, the FDA announced formal approval of the Pfizer vaccine. Approvals for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine are still pending.

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