Oregon Congressman Blasts House Leadership on Fire Funding

By Tom Bacon

Oregon's outspoken Congressman Peter DeFazio blasted U-S House leadership for letting Congress fiddle while Oregon burns. On the House floor, the Democratic congressman told his colleagues to wake up and smell the smoke.

As he spoke, at least 18 large wildfires were charring hundreds of thousands of acres in Oregon. The largest, the Buzzard Complex near Riverside, had chewed through nearly 400-thousand acres as of Thursday. DeFazio is frustrated that a bipartisan bill he and Idaho Republican Mike Simpson wrote can't even get a hearing in committee, much less a vote of the full house. As he put it - "What has this House of Representatives done while the bone-dry west has gone up in flames? Nothing."

He continued, "They blather endlessly about all sorts of things, wasting time on dozens of meaningless conspiracy-driven investigations." DeFazio is pushing to have his bill pried away from the committee in which it's stuck using a parliamentary tactic called a discharge petition. But that requires 218 votes, and so far, he's got only 182 - all Democrats.

Not a single Republican has signed on, even though 52 GOP members are co-sponsors of his bill to treat wildfires as natural disasters.

A similar bill is also languishing in the Senate, despite being sponsored by Idaho Republicans and Oregon Democrats.

The federal agencies charged with fighting wildfires may run out of budgeted money for catastrophic fires by the end of this month, meaning they'd have to pull money away from other programs to cover the costs.
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