U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio addresses University of Oregon students and community members about his work in the House of Representatives. (Zack Demars/Emerald)

Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio spoke to University of Oregon students on Friday in the William W. Knight Law School about his work in Congress during, in his words, an “unprecedented time in our history.”

DeFazio spoke of the challenge he posed to the government-owned Old Post Office Pavillion holding a lease with Trump International Hotel. He first raised concerns in 2016, and has been “actively investigating the Trump Hotel ever since,” according to an October 2019 press release

Due to DeFazio’s previous minority status in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he had been denied access to documents, legal analysis and financial statements by the General Service Administration. “Now, I’m the chair,” DeFazio said. “Now you have to give me the documents.” 

With multiple requests blocked, the congressman filed for legal support. After a subpoena was issued, DeFazio reported that the GSA will deliver a “significant production” of the requested documents by Monday. In the event that the documents are not produced, DeFazio will “ask for enforcement of the subpoena,” possibly resulting in the House council going before a judge.

“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Impeachment Inquiry

DeFazio addressed the elephant in the room — the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine. He called the evidence brought against the President “undeniable,” and following the release of the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, he said that “we’ve just got to move forward with impeachment.”  

Though it is ultimately up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, DeFazio said, “I expect we’ll impeach him by Christmas.” 

Despite the continued scrutiny over the whistleblower’s identity, the congressman sees it as “irrelevant” because the claims are corroborated by documents and on-the-record sources.

Boeing Investigation

As chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, DeFazio has been busy with the recent investigations into the two plane crashes of Boeing’s 737 Max, resulting in the death of over 300 people. His investigative staff has been working through Boeing and Federal Aviation Association documents, while the congressman has been busy seeking testimony from high ranking officials within both organizations — including Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenberg. 

Concerns come in the form of the software used in the Boeing 737 Max, and the pressure put on workers to fulfill the demands of travel companies, DeFazio said. Reports revealed in the hearings show that there were significant safety concerns, ones that were ignored by the FAA — including the vulnerable technology implemented. Worries over if the angle of attack sensor malfunctioned were brushed aside. “Investigators believe that is what happened in both doomed flights,” The New York Times reported. 

DeFazio pointed out because of the sensor malfunction, the plane would go into an “irreconcilable dive” if the event the pilot didn’t respond within 10 seconds, and he called the situation “killing for profit.”

The Next Move

Uber and Lyft’s administrative inconsistencies, including background checks of drivers, are another of his current transit-based investigations. Representatives for the companies failed to show up to their hearings, prompting the congressman to inform the CEOS by letter that, in their absence, they “leave the Committee little choice but to make these policy decisions without [their] input.”

DeFazio has served in Congress since 1987, and when it comes to bipartisan politics, he said, “I’m still trying.” He introduced a new bill, the Full Utilization of the Harbor Trust Fund Act, which would appropriate the “approximately $9.6 billion” of taxes levied by sea transport back into the upkeep of harbors and docks, according to a press release. The act serves as proof for DeFazio that “we can still pass bipartisan stuff.”

DeFazio pointed to the infrastructure in the United States and said, “We need a massive reinvestment,” saying that “40% of national highways need to be replaced.” 

The congressman said that “transportation is the biggest contributor to climate pollution” — or as he calls it, “the climate crisis.” DeFazio referred to Oregon State University’s research into concrete formulation, which capable of reducing carbon consumption.

“We need to move quickly,” said DeFazio, hoping to have his proposal done by the end of the year. 

In June, DeFazio also introduced a package of acts, intent on redefining the way higher education is paid for. His proposals include raising the minimum salary for loan repayment,, “increasing the maximum pell grant,” and expanding food assistance programs like SNAP to college students, according to his proposal.

Simply put: “I’m not bored."