Biden Just Endorsed a Guy Who’s Blocking the Dems’ Agenda

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader is facing a progressive primary challenger, but he’s got the president’s support.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on Earth Day at Green River College in Auburn, Washington, U.S, on Friday, April 22, 2022. (David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader just picked up a key endorsement as he seeks to fend off a progressive primary challenger: President Joe Biden, the man whose agenda Schrader is helping to stymie in Congress.

Schrader, a conservative Democrat who’s served in Congress since 2009, has come under increasing criticism from the left over the past few years for opposing much of Biden’s legislative plans. 

Schrader was one of only two Democrats to vote against the American Rescue Plan, the COVID relief bill passed by Congress after Biden took office last year. And though he voted for the Build Back Better plan in November, Schrader and several other conservative and moderate House Democrats were instrumental in separating Biden’s spending bill from the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed last fall. The Build Back Better bill, a reconciliation bill that encompassed much of Biden’s legislative agenda, is currently stalled in the Senate. 


Next month Schrader will face a primary challenge from Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a lawyer and former city councilor in Santa Clara, California. McLeod-Skinner has been endorsed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Oregon Gov. Barbara Roberts, and several local Democratic parties, state legislators, and unions.

But on Saturday, Biden endorsed Schrader anyway. “We don’t always agree, but when it has mattered most, Kurt has been there for me,” Biden said in the endorsement. “And in doing so, he has helped to pass much of my agenda into law—making a huge difference in the lives of the Oregonians he represents and all of America.”

Schrader’s district is one of the more competitive races in Oregon, as he carried the district in his last race by just seven points and it became slightly more conservative after the last round of redistricting. But Schrader has broken with the Democratic Party in key ways, including initially describing the second impeachment of former President Donald Trump as a “lynching” and opposing some of the Biden administration’s most broadly popular proposals.


Last year, for example, Schrader and two fellow Democrats joined with Republicans to cut from Build Back Better a plan to allow the government to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs in order to lower drug costs—a piece of the Democratic campaign platform for more than a decade, and one favored by more than 80 percent of Americans, according to an October poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. During his State of the Union last month, Biden renewed his call for Congress to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

Schrader—who has received more campaign contributions from pharmaceutical and health product political action committees (PACs) than any other Democrat in Congress this cycle, according to Open Secrets—later supported a proposal in Build Back Better to allow the government to negotiate some expensive drug prices. But the bill has not moved in the Senate at all since, after conservative West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin said he wouldn’t vote for the bill as passed by the House

McLeod-Skinner blasted Schrader, and Biden’s endorsement, in a statement her campaign provided to VICE News. 

“I respect the work that Joe Biden has done to tackle Covid-19 and rebuild our economy, but I have to disagree with the President here,” she said. “The fact that Schrader is calling in political favors from national Democrats shows he knows our campaign of working people in Oregon is stronger than ever.” 

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