'Tiger of the House' claws his way through infrastructure talks

I wouldn't give a damn what the White House does. DeFazio stated in a short interview that they were an independent branch government. They made this deal. It was not signed by me.DeFazio, the third-most senior Democrat in Congress and a founding member the Congressional Progressive Caucus is a rare battleground incumbent that could hardly be mistaken for a moderate.He is also known for his quirky lifestyle, including living on a boat and enjoying craft beer. He has a reputation for being outspoken when necessary and for sharpening his tongue when he gets upset. He is also an expert on the issues he covers and has earned respect from both members of both parties as well as leadership.Former GOP Rep. Greg Walden said that he is the tiger in the House. He served with DeFazio for 20 years before retiring last year.Zach Gibson/Getty ImagesHell will take on his leadership and hell will take on his colleagues. Walden said, "And hell also be your greatest ally and friend." "I've been in both.DeFazio is the one who has voiced opposition to the Senate deal. However, senators are working together to close the bill. As Democrats from across the caucus begin to go through stages of grief, anger, denial and acceptance, they prepare for a vote that will allow them to rubber stamp a massive Senate measure, while their own infrastructure legislation is accumulating dust at the Capitol.The Senate's turbulent attempts to reach a deal have caused tensions within the House for several weeks. Speculations about what the Senate might do have become a common topic of conversation at every caucus meeting and weekly lunches hosted by the Progressive Caucus.In July, the House passed DeFazio's $715 billion infrastructure bill. However, it is not clear what elements will be included within the Senate package. DeFazios bill, which is being used to facilitate the Senate deal, means that the upper chamber will use his work in order to move forward with their compromise, then remove his language from the legislation before sending it back the House.Rep. Stephen Lynch (D. Mass.) said that he understands why he is frustrated. Another long-serving member on the transportation panel. Many of the best parts in this transportation bill were cut.Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) During a hearing entitled "Cyber-securing The Vote: Ensuring Integrity of U.S. Election System", on Capitol Hill, Washington, Tuesday July 24, 2018, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) speaks with the Republican side to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Susan Walsh/AP PhotoDeFazio's main complaint is that the Senate bill contains virtually no of his priorities on climate changes at a time in which the West Coast, including his district in southwest Oregon, is exploding. He has privately told his colleagues that those provisions are unlikely to be included in the Democratic-only spending bill. This will have to comply with Senate budget rules.DeFazio may not leave the fight but Democrats don't think he will. However, few people expect him to ignore the chance of a huge Biden win that would give him only a short time to present his case.I'm glad he is sticking to it, because it's important, said Rep. Earl Blumenauer from Oregon, a fellow progressive. He is probably more knowledgeable than anyone in Congress about the nuts and bolts.DeFazio's role as a chair in the talks can be complicated. He must be seen advocating for his bill, but he also cannot risk threatening the negotiations. DeFazio is a strong opponent of the Senate deal but maintains good relationships with Democratic leaders including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They have a friendly, but open relationship. Pelosi, House Majority leader Steny Hoyer (D.Md.). Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and other top Democrats tried to be respectful to DeFazio by publicly praising his bill as well as pushing for the Senate to include elements.His colleagues describe him as a tea kettle. They have learned to allow him to vent about whatever is bothering them before returning to the subject. Usually, they encounter a calmer DeFazio.Hoyer explained Tuesday that they are not in a take it or leave it mentality at the moment.Rep. Steny Hogue (D-Md. Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesSince DeFazio shattered the talks last week in a private phone call, the White House has dramatically increased its outreach to DeFazio. He told POLITICO Tuesday that White House negotiators are still not listening to him.Few Democrats think DeFazio can secure the Senate's approval to merge the two bills. Officials from the White House dismissed the idea for a conference and privately warned Democrats that they don't want to risk the bill being delayed or even blown up.Two camps have emerged in the House Democratic caucus. Those who accept that they will likely have to swallow anything sent across the Capitol and those who believe they can substantially shape the Senate product. Because they view the cross-aisle back and forth as a way to an end, even progressives have mostly stayed away from the Senate talks. They may not be able to pass the massive $3.5 trillion social spending plan, which Democrats want without bipartisan support.DeFazio sees this bill as the end. These policies have been his goal throughout his career. It is unclear if DeFazio will get another chance to pass a bill as big while he holds onto the panel's hammer. The transportation bills are only a handful of times a year, so Democrats are becoming increasingly pessimistic about the chances of keeping the House next election.DeFazio's district dynamics are also changing. DeFazio was confronted last November by Alek Sklatos, his most formidable opponent in years. This GOP hero stopped an extremist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015.DeFazio responded to the threat and won 6 points. However, his district, which includes rural towns up the Oregon coast and timber country, could prove difficult when he faces Skarlatos in 2022. Oregon will be awarded a seat next year. This could cause problems in the state's congressional map and put DeFazio in greater danger.Legislators and their aides have admitted what they don't want to say loudly: DeFazios demands that a conference committee be established to coordinate the priorities of Senate and House will not be fulfilled. With a 50-50 Senate, House Democrats will likely need to pass any deal that the Senate makes.Even though DeFazio is not the victor, even House Democrats still support him. This is especially true for Democrats, who hope DeFazio will convince party leaders that their earmarks cash be used for various district projects. Some lawmakers are already looking at other options to secure these projects, including including the money in a must pass spending bill later in the year.Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, House Democratic Caucus Chair (D-N.Y.), said Tuesday that he wouldn't describe Peter DeFazio to be angry. Peter DeFazio is passionately proud of the outstanding work done by his committee as well as the House.Ally Mutnick contributed to the report.