“It is time to pass the baton to the best generation so I can focus on my health and well being,” said Mr. DeFazio. “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.”
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The exodus of Democratic incumbents is significantly larger than that faced by Democrats ahead of the 2010 elections, when the party lost 63 House seats.
Republicans were quick to point to Mr. DeFazio’s retirement as proof the political environment is souring for Democrats.
“Committee Chairs don’t retire unless they know their majority is gone,” said Courtney Parella, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “Nancy Pelosi’s days as speaker are numbered.”
The House transportation committee chairman has been a steadfast ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat. Earlier this year, that relationship was put to the test when the House took up President Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.
Mr. DeFazio initially refused to ”rubber stamp” the proposal, which had been negotiated by a group of bipartisan senators and the White House. In particular, Mr. DeFazio attempted to change the package to include more funding for public transit and climate change programs.
“At the moment they just want to send over the bipartisan bill and say we have to take it,” Mr. DeFazio said at the time. “Which I’m not willing to do. … I’m not taking it.”
After lobbying from Mrs. Pelosi and the White House, Mr. DeFazio dropped his opposition and adopted the Senate bill wholesale. Since then, however, he has attempted to reinsert programs that were left out of that package into Mr. Biden’s bigger, $1.75 trillion social welfare bill.
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