U.S. Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer of Oregon’s 5th Congressional District listens as the House of Representatives votes for a new speaker of the House on Oct. 17, 2023 in Washington, DC. On Oct. 25, 2023 she voted for Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana after rejecting Ohio’s Jim Jordan. Both share the same conservative views. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
After voting three times against hardline Republican Jim Jordan for speaker of the House, Oregon’s Lori Chavez-DeRemer joined all Republicans in voting for Louisiana’s Mike Johnson, a staunch opponent of abortion rights who played a key role in Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Democrats have already seized on Chavez-DeRemer’s support for Johnson as she fights to keep her seat in the competitive 5th Congressional District. Oregon voters overwhelmingly support abortion rights, and local and national Democratic groups signaled that Chavez-DeRemer’s ties to a conservative Christian who has backed a nationwide abortion ban will become a key issue in the campaign.
“Mike Johnson is Jim Jordan with a sports coat – possibly worse – and he has a new best friend in Oregon: Lori Chavez-DeRemer,” said Dan Gottlieb, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Chavez-DeRemer has enabled MAGA extremism every step of the way, and we’ll make sure that voters know that she once again put the far-right before Oregon workers and families.”
Abortion became a major factor in Oregon’s 2022 election after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the national right to an abortion. A July 2022 poll conducted by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center found that 40% of Oregonians surveyed said the decision made them more likely to vote in November, and 72% of those surveyed said abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
The number of Democrats who said abortion was the most important factor in their vote for governor increased from 1% in January 2022 to 16% in August 2022, according to polling from DHM Research. Democrats outnumber Republicans in the 5th district, which runs from Bend to Portland.
Chavez-DeRemer declined an interview Wednesday or Thursday. A spokesman said by email that Chavez-DeRemer didn’t necessarily believe Johnson was the best choice, but that it was clear late Tuesday he would garner enough support from Republicans to be the next speaker and she wanted to get back to governing.
In an earlier statement Wednesday, Chavez-DeRemer said she hoped Johnson would work effectively with all sides of the Republican Conference on “common-sense, pragmatic legislation.”
“Although I haven’t had the chance to get to know him well, I’ve made Oregon’s priorities very clear to him,” she said. “As for me, I’ll continue seeking consensus and will always put the best interests of the 5th District first. Let’s get back to work.”
Her spokesman said Chavez-DeRemer doesn’t agree with all Johnson’s positions, as she didn’t agree with all of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s positions. The office cited Chavez-DeRemer’s opposition to House Resolution 7, which would have barred any insurance plans that cover abortion from being sold on the Affordable Care Act exchange and blocked patients from qualifying for tax credits or cost-sharing subsidies if their insurance plans cover abortions, as well as her vote against an unsuccessful funding bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would have limited the use of mifepristone, one of two pills used for medication abortion.
Since her election, Chavez-DeRemer has insisted that she will not support any legislation that would “fundamentally change” access to abortion nationwide. However, she voted in July to block the Department of Defense from reimbursing travel expenses for service members and their dependents who travel to obtain abortions or other reproductive health care if such care isn’t available where they’re stationed.
During her 2022 campaign for Congress and her 2016 and 2018 campaigns for state House, Chavez-DeRemer made conflicting statements about abortion rights. In 2016, for instance, the Oregonian editorial board described her as “pro-choice” in its endorsement, while she told the conservative Oregon Family Council that she opposed abortion except in cases of rape, incest or where continuing a pregnancy would endanger the woman’s life.
Last year, she celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the national right to an abortion and promised Oregon Republicans who attended the annual Dorchester conference in Welches that she would always vote against abortion, saying that she was not for taxpayer-funded abortion and never would be.
In a statement this summer to an Axios reporter, she said she wouldn’t support efforts to further limit taxpayer-funded abortions.
“The Dobbs decision made clear that it’s an issue that should be decided by at the state level, and Oregonians recently rejected efforts to limit taxpayer-funded abortion overwhelmingly,” she said.
Anti-abortion and pro-Trump moves
New House Speaker Johnson, however, is among the most vocal opponents of abortion in the U.S. House. He called for punishing doctors who perform abortions with 10 years of “hard labor” in prison. In Congress, he has sponsored or co-sponsored bills to ban abortions nationwide at six weeks or 15 weeks, prohibit federal funding for any clinics that perform abortions and declare that life begins at fertilization.
He also co-sponsored a bill condemned by doctors that would require health care practitioners to immediately admit to a hospital any fetus that survives an abortion. Chavez-DeRemer and all other House Republicans voted for that measure, which medical professionals say would block doctors from providing compassionate, evidence-based care.
Johnson, a constitutional lawyer before he was elected to Congress in 2016, led 126 Republicans who signed an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case seeking to overturn Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election. He also voted against certifying 2020 election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, two states won by Joe Biden.
He previously worked for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a high-profile conservative Christian legal group that targets LGBTQ and reproductive rights. The group is currently seeking to overturn an Oregon rule that requires foster and adoptive parents to respect their children’s sexual orientation and gender identity.
In Congress, Johnson voted against a 2022 law recognizing same-sex and interracial marriages and against an unsuccessful 2021 bill to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Two of Chavez-DeRemer’s potential opponents, 2022 Democratic nominee Jamie McLeod-Skinner and state Rep. Janelle Bynum, D-Clackamas, slammed Johnson’s record and Chavez-DeRemer’s support for him.
“Speaker Johnson is anti-democracy, anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ, and Lori Chavez-DeRemer is now directly tied to his dangerous and extreme agenda,” McLeod-Skinner said. “While I am extremely disappointed and troubled by the Congresswoman’s vote today, I’m not surprised given her record of voting to further roll back reproductive rights and slash funding for veterans, housing, and nutrition programs for Oregon families. Oregon deserves better.”
Bynum said Chavez-DeRemer made it clear she wasn’t interested in governing or finding bipartisan solutions.
“She has continued to side with the most extreme factions of her party, bolstering a far-right MAGA extremist speaker who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 election, pass a national abortion ban with no exceptions, and decimate Social Security and Medicare,” Bynum said. “She’s another rubber stamp to her party’s extreme agenda and not in the business of serving Oregon — that’s why I’ll defeat her again in November.”
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