DeFazio's vote on stimulus bill draws Obama's attention

WASHINGTON — Rep. Peter DeFazio calls it a badge of honor.

The veteran Oregon Democrat was on the receiving end of some needling from President Barack Obama this week — but said it's all for a worthy cause.

At a meeting with the president Monday night, DeFazio told Obama he wanted more infrastructure spending. Without prompting, Obama immediately recalled DeFazio's vote against the president's economic stimulus bill.

"I know you think we need more for that because you voted against" the stimulus bill in February, Obama told DeFazio during a question-and-answer session with about 150 House Democrats at the Capitol.

"Don't think we're not keeping score, brother," Obama added, as other lawmakers howled with laughter.

DeFazio, a 12-term lawmaker from Springfield, was the only member of Congress to oppose the final stimulus bill after supporting the initial version. The chairman of a House subcommittee on highways and transit, DeFazio complained that the revised bill did not do enough for transportation and infrastructure.

Later in the meeting, Obama told DeFazio he was "messing" with him and that he needs the veteran Democrat's vote on his budget proposal.

DeFazio said today that he took the president's verbal jabs in good humor — and instantly became a kind of Capitol celebrity. A fellow lawmaker approached him at the House gym and said he should be honored that the president called him "brother."

DeFazio said he agrees.

"There were 200-some odd Democrats in the room, he probably can't name half of them," DeFazio said of Obama. "He knows my name. He knows how I voted, and he knows why. And he knows enough to say I'm a tireless advocate for transportation. He got the message that I wanted him to get, and hopefully we can make common cause on this."

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