Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader was among 16 House Democrats who released a letter vowing to oppose Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid to become the new speaker.
The Clackamas County lawmaker is prominent in moderate Democratic circles in the House and has long sought new leadership in the chamber. He couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
In the letter, the dissident Democrats praised Pelosi as a “historic figure” with major accomplishments. But they said it was time for a change and said they are “committed to voting for new leadership in both our Caucus meeting and on the House Floor. “
In this last election, they said, “Our majority came on the backs of candidates who said that they would support new leadership because voters in hard-won districts, and across the country, want to see real change in Washington.”
The letter represented the most public — and concrete — action made to deny Pelosi another term as speaker when the Democrats take over in January.
None of the three other House Democrats from Oregon signed the letter. Aides to Portland-area Reps. Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici said they supported the speaker.
An aide to Rep. Peter DeFazio of Springfield said he has not said publicly how he will vote.
By themselves, it’s uncertain whether Schrader and the other 15 signatories can deny Pelosi the speaker’s gavel. Two of the signers — Ben McAdams of Utah and Anthony Brindisi of New York — are in undecided election races where the votes haven’t yet been fully counted.
And Democrats may wind up winning enough seats that Pelosi can win without needing those who signed the letter.
Pelosi supporters said they were encouraged that the number of people signing the letter was lower than backers had hoped to get.
A “senior Democratic aide” who gave the same statement to several publications noted that “94 percent of the Caucus didn’t sign this letter.” The aide said it was a failing strategy to try to persuade Pelosi to give up her candidacy for another term as speaker.
Still, several other members who did not sign the letter have said they would oppose Pelosi. One Democrat, Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, backed away from signing the letter as she ponders whether to run for speaker.
Schrader and other leaders of the anti-Pelosi effort have taken heat for opposing the one woman in the top House leadership. One popular hashtag on Twitter is #FiveWhiteGuys, a reference to Schrader and four other men who have been active in rounding up opposition to Pelosi.
In part, it appears that several lawmakers are angling for rules changes, or a promise from Pelosi that she would only serve one more session as speaker.
Schrader first called for a change in leadership after he won a heated re-election contest in 2010 in Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District. The district has a relatively small Democratic edge, with Hillary Clinton winning the presidential vote in 2016 by 4 percentage points.
The Oregon congressman also voted against Pelosi after the 2016 election. He’s been a leader of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of self-described moderate House Democrats. Among other things, he has talked about limiting the number of terms a member can chair a committee. That’s a step that Republicans have taken but not the Democrats.
Schrader has also long complained that the party leadership should adopt a strategy more appealing to working families. After Democrats stuck with Pelosi in 2016, he told The New York Times that he was “very worried we just signed the Democratic Party’s death certificate for the next decade and a half.”
House Democrats are expected to nominate at a Nov. 28 meeting. Pelosi would only need a caucus majority then. But she needs to win a majority — 218 votes — of the entire House on Jan. 3 to become speaker.