U.S. Rep.-elect Jason Crow isn’t worried about potential repercussions over his opposition to U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s bid to be House Speaker, which has become one of the biggest stories in Washington since Democrats overtook the house following the midterm election.
Crow joined fellow Colorado U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter and several other Democrats in opposing Pelosi’s bid. The California congresswoman served as House Speaker the last time Democrats held a majority in the lower chamber.
House Democrats are expected to vote on leadership positions during a closed-door caucus meeting on Thursday. Crow is expected to be in Washington this week for another round of new legislator orientation. He said he was waiting to see who steps up before he says who he will support for House Speaker.
“My vision for the next two years is to restore the House to the role it should have as a strong and independent voice for the American people, and maximize the ability and the creativity of our entire Caucus,” Pelosi said in a letter announcing her bid.
For Crow, the decision is part of a commitment he made during his campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman to represent the 6th Congressional District.
“My promise is my promise,” Crow said last Friday in an interview with Denverite in Greenwood Village. “I’ve been very clear on this for a very long time. I remain consistent and I will.”
A big part of his campaign was his pledge to bring “a new generation” of leadership in Congress. He is part one of the most diverse class of House legislators, at least on the Democratic side.
“I think that’s really important to continue to push for,” Crow said. “We’ll see who ends up stepping up. We’re going to see this week as we go back for meetings and caucus votes who are the final candidates for each position.”
Despite his opposition, his signature was notably absent from a letter signed by 16 Democrats opposing Pelosi as speaker. Perlmutter was among the lawmakers who signed the letter last week, as was U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, the group’s informal leader. Moulton on Monday signaled he was interested in holding talks with Pelosi about leadership changes, according to the Washington Post.
The absence of Crow’s signature drew some criticism from the spokesperson for Colorado’s Republican National Committee.
“If Jason Crow is really opposed to Nancy Pelosi, he should just remove all question and sign the letter,” spokesperson Kyle Kohli said in a release last week. “Otherwise, like many of his colleagues, it looks like Crow is searching for an offramp to back Nancy Pelosi and break his pledge to Colorado voters.”
Crow said his position on the matter has been pretty clear, which is why his signature wasn’t on the letter. He said the district, which he called “an independently-minded” one, wants a person that will be a voice for Colorado and not get caught up in the inside baseball of DC. He doesn’t want the leadership storyline to become the focus of his new position.
“I didn’t think it was necessary to go on a letter,” Crow said. “My focus of the campaign has been a lot on the kitchen table issues: immigration reform, healthcare, gun violence, campaign finance reform, that’s what I want the focus to continue to be and we’re going to hit the ground running on January 3rd.”
Crow has his eye on a few committees that could help address issues he talked a lot about during the campaign.
He’s hoping to be selected to the House Committee on Armed Services, where Coffman previously served, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
“They’re issues that have a direct impact to the district,” Crow said.
Serving on the foreign affairs committee would give him a shot at addressing the large immigrant and refugee communities in the district. Transportation and infrastructure is another major need in the district.
His priorities will include supporting a campaign finance reform bill, which would include increasing transparency. Democrats have already said this package, which would include strengthening parts of the Voting Rights Act and establishing automatic voter registration, would be their first major action in Congress. Some of the act’s provisions were crippled by a 2013 Supreme Court decision, according to NPR.
“We’re actually looking at right now what it’s going to include,” Crow said.
He credits his work on the campaign and the work of other House Democrats as helping ensure that this was the first bill on the new House’s docket. He’s part of a group calling themselves the Reformers who called for the bill’s introduction during the campaign season.
“In addition to that, we have to resolve the Dreamer, DACA issues,” Crow said. “And I think we have to do that quickly.”
Also on his docket are improving healthcare costs by stabilizing markets and protecting Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 election.
A big target during his campaign: addressing gun violence.
Crow was joined by former congresswoman and gun reform advocate Gabby Giffords of Arizona during a gun reform rally in Aurora in September. He’s keen on keeping this campaign promise. He’s already discussed the possibility of introducing bills calling for background checks on firearm purchases and banning bump stocks.
“But we have to obviously put it together in a way that maximizes its chances of passing the Senate,” Crow said. (The Senate will have a Republican-majority.) “There are some discussions across the chambers on how we can get that done.”
Despite being an incoming freshman, Crow knows passing such legislation will be met with resistance, especially from Republicans. He said it will be critical to find common ground to get things through the House.
“The country is rightfully demanding it,” Crow said. He pointed to Colorado’s gun laws, passed in the aftermath of the Aurora Theater shooting, as a success story he wants to replicate in Congress. “At a national level, I think we can do the same thing, using the Colorado model of taking action on important issues.”
With Democrats in control of the House, Crow said, there will be an opportunity to change the way business is done in Washington. He said he heard from people who realized the system in Washington “wasn’t working for them.” He said it included worries over sending the same people “back there time and time again.”
“So we have a really great opportunity to not only pass legislation that has to be passed but to change the culture of politics and to go back to servant leadership,” Crow said, “putting the focus back on the people and not the corporate PACs.”