Fazio represented the Sacramento area from 1979 to 1999 and was a member of the House Appropriations and Armed Services committees.
“He was an incredibly sharp, passionate legislator, but someone who also cared deeply about those whose voice was often not heard in Washington,” Rep. Doris Matsui, a California Democrat, said in a statement.
“He could just as easily talk to a farmer or a big city mayor. My late husband, Bob Matsui, and I considered Vic a close friend for over 30 years. He worked to make our country a better place with his civility and ability to find common ground.”
Born in Massachusetts, Fazio came to California as a graduate student and served in California’s State Assembly before being elected to the House of Representatives.
He had a reputation for supporting environmental programs and for his ability to provide government funding for projects in his area, including a vast wetland and wildlife preserve between Davis and Sacramento that is known as the Vic Fazio Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area. It was dedicated by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
Fazio also was able to cross the aisle to work with Republicans in an era when Congress seemed to be far less polarized.
Fazio was “a classic legislator” who worked with Rep. Jerry Lewis, a California Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, to obtain federal money for their state, said V. John White, a Sacramento legislative staffer who worked occasionally with Fazio.
“The two of them were the go-to guys … to get things for California,” he told the Sacramento Bee.
Fazio, of course, also bore his share of criticism and defeats. He was chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 1994 when Republicans won control of the House for the first time in 40 years.
The next year, he was chosen as chairman of the House Democratic caucus and served for four years.
After leaving Congress, Fazio worked in a public relations firm in Washington, D.C. and later joined a law firm, retiring in 2020.
In 2011, he urged new members of Congress to educate themselves by listening to lobbyists and other Washington insiders.
“One thing you need to do is to use your time effectively to learn Washington, to learn what’s going on downtown at the labor headquarters, at the corporate office,” Fazio advised the newcomers. “I mean, this is your chance to get to know people and to let them get to know you. I happen to still think that’s important.”