A day in Rep. DeFazio’s life covers a wide range of topics, activities

Rep. Pete DeFazio had a busy day March 12 at his office in the Rayburn House Building in Washington, D.C.

He left the boat he lives on in a marina near the Capitol for an early breakfast meeting, where he met with other Democrats to discuss the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Then he spoke to a group about transportation issues, followed that with a meeting with some visitors from Wilsonville, and then met with an Oregon Department of Transportation staffer to discuss the proposed 12-lane bridge that Oregon and Washington state officials have agreed to build across the Columbia River to replace the old Interstate 5 bridge.

After that he met with representatives of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, who were spread throughout the capital on Thursday with brightly colored plastic bicycles stuck to their lapels. The group included about 50 people from Oregon, who were there to push their agenda as Congress works on the federal budget.

DeFazio said the cyclists are particularly interested in converting a stretch of the old Columbia River highway into a bicycle route between Portland and Hood River. They’ve been talking about it for years, he said.

“I keep telling them that they need to get their costs down,” he said of the proposal, the latest copy of which was on his desk, which aims to complete the project by 2016. “They’ve cut out some things.”

DeFazio, who had his own bicycle standing in a corner of his second-level office in the office complex, said he thinks building bicycle routes such as the one along the Columbia Gorge in Oregon would be a draw for visitors from all over the world, particularly Europe.

“I think it would be great for Sweet Home,” he said.

He hadn’t ridden the bike that morning because he had a bad cold, he said, but usually, if the weather’s good, he rides to and from work.

After the bicycle lobby left, he met with representatives of the Oregon Child Referral Resources, followed by the American Forestry Resource Council. After lunch with the Democratic Caucus, he went to the House Chambers, where he voted for the $13.8 billion Water Quality Investment Act, which aims to improve water quality for communities around the country and is expected to create approximately 480,000 jobs over the next five years. The measure passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 317 to 101 and now goes to the Senate.

“Fixing our nation’s broken water infrastructure is key to the health of our citizens, sustaining our environment and diversifying our economy,” DeFazio said. “I’ve heard from mayors who state they can’t upgrade their water systems without increasing bills by 50 to 100 percent. With the struggling economy, the last thing consumers need is a jump in their water and sewer bills.”

All this before 2:30 p.m. That’s when DeFazio met with some visitors from Sweet Home before catching a plane out of town.

Sitting in his office, he talked about some of his recent activities and concerns.

DeFazio was one of seven Democrats who voted against the American Recovery and Investment Act, the $787 billion bailout plan, mainly because it invested less than 10 percent of its funds in infrastructure and included too much ($325 billion) in tax cuts. He also didn’t like the fact that those tax cuts cut education funding for Oregon by $400 million.

But, he said, since the bailout proposal passed, he and his staff have put together a 65-page list of funding opportunities for the state to help constituents find funding opportunities they may be eligible for.

“As billions of dollars in federal assistance, grants, loans, loan guarantees, and tax benefits are available to the public, it is critical that Oregon families business, non-profits, and city and local governments have the information to access these funds as quickly as possible,” he said in the preface to the resource guide, which is available in ,pdf form on his Web site, http://www.defazio.house.gov/.

Long an outspoken opponent of the extent to which the nation is in debt, “courtesy of the Bush Administration,” noted he opposed last fall’s $700 billion bank bailout and he believes the nation needs to start paying off the debt, which he reports on a running calculator on his Web home page.

“Every penny in the stimulus act was borrowed,” he said.

He said the bailout favored securities brokers and was based on accounting rules that enabled banks to mislead the public on the extent of their problems, particularly the value of their securities.

DeFazio said he strongly advocates putting stimulus money to work by funding U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management budgets for road restoration and forest thinning programs that, he said, would provide jobs in Oregon.

He said he opposes the “cap-and-trade” approach to emissions controls, opting for direct emissions regulations that force lower greenhouse gas emissions rather than letting the free market help reduce emissions through an unregulated market that allows businesses that come in below their emissions caps to buy, trade or sell credits to those that don’t.

“I’m kind of an old-fashioned guy,” he said. “I don’t see why we can’t set goals and regulations to lower carbon emissions and force industry to meet those goals instead of letting the market address the problem of climate change.”

He says he’s supportive of President Obama’s proposal to create a $634 billion reserve fund over the next decade that would lead to universal health coverage for Americans. He thinks it will take longer than the president hopes.

“I don’t think we’ll have health care by August,” he said.