U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield, hopes to make transportation more climate-friendly and extend the $300 per child monthly COVID-19 relief payments beyond the end of the year.
Those are among the proposals DeFazio discussed with constituents during a virtual town hall meeting Thursday. He covered a range of issues, including the president’s Build Back Better American Jobs Plan, wildfire, transportation and the withdrawal from Afghanistan, among others.
DeFazio said the wildfire season started a month and a half early, but it isn’t over yet. He cited extreme drought and climate change as causes and said fossil fuel pollution must be addressed.
However, he also said we need to deal better with our forests.
“We have to get back into unhealthy forests and manage them back to health. We have to do a lot more fuel reduction,” he said.
A caller who gave his name as Kevin said this was the hottest summer in Oregon he’s ever known and it seems like the fossil fuel industry and the gas industry are preventing the country from uniting to fight climate change.
“I see nothing being done and I’m afraid for my children and their grandchildren,” he said.
DeFazio said he shared those concerns and his original transportation plan, passed by the House, would have transitioned transportation away from fossil fuels and into renewable fuels like electricity and later hydrogen produced by cracking water.
The Senate bill, which moved ahead instead, didn’t address climate change as well, he said.
However, he said he’s working on climate change provisions for the Build Back Better plan. In addition to electrification, he wants to see highway concrete mixed with coal ash, which reduces the carbon release, and investments in high-speed rail and city public transit.
“The fossil fuel industry is very very powerful, persistent lobby and unfortunately they have a stranglehold on my Republican colleagues, who lock and step are all saying climate change is a myth and or we can’t do anything about it, one or the other. I believe we can do a lot about it and we have to do something about it,” he said.
A caller who identified himself as Carl asked about a minimum tax payment for businesses, saying they need to pay their fair share.
“You’re spot on with that,” DeFazio said.
He said the first step is making sure the wealthy pay the taxes they owe. He cited Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, who he said paid no taxes at all one year.
Just enforcing existing tax laws, without adding any new laws, would bring in an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years, he said.
DeFazio also voiced support for President Joe Biden’s work getting other countries to agree to an international minimum business tax of 15%. That could prevent some huge corporations from evading taxes by using outside countries as tax havens, he said.
A caller from Roseburg who identified herself as Julia said she was laid off from her job due to COVID-19. Now she can’t afford the cost of childcare so she can return to work.
DeFazio said the Build Back Better plan is really a family support program. It includes affordable childcare and an extension of the $300 per child per month federal payments.
DeFazio also addressed the pullout from Afghanistan that’s underway. He thanked the troops for their service, but said America’s major objective has already been accomplished in Afghanistan.
“We are going to continue to defend the United States when and where necessary from foreign threats, but nation building over two decades hasn’t worked. And it wouldn’t work if we stayed another decade in that country,” he said.