Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., is taking a leading role Tuesday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s passage in the U.S. House on May 21, 1919. The Daily Signal recently spoke to her about a range of issues affecting her constituents, including the disconnect between the people in Washington state and Washington, D.C. Plus, she speaks about her efforts to reach out to the next generation, why she values every human life, and how the booming economy is helping small businesses in her state. The interview is available on our podcast, video, and the a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: You recently spent time back home in the district talking to a lot of your constituents. Tell us what is on their minds. It’s so interesting for those of us in Washington to hear what’s going on in the rest of the country.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Sure. Well, it’s always good to get around to the countries of eastern Washington and hold town halls, invite people to come and ask questions.
I’m also visiting all the high schools. I’ve been to several high schools over the last couple of weeks. I represent several colleges and universities, and going on campus.
At the town halls, what I like to talk about and where I always lead is just that this is representative government, and just how much I cherish representative government, and what an honor it is to serve in the House, the peoples’ House. The battle of ideas that takes place.
I always like to highlight the economy. And in eastern Washington our economy is good, just like it is all over the country. If anything, we have a shortage of skilled workers and affordable housing. We need more plumbers and pipe fitters, and welders.
But the questions that I’ve been asked more just the last few days, I usually get asked about the cost of health care. That continues to be a big challenge, especially for families, small businesses, those that are in the individual market. Rising premiums, copays, the deductibles. That continues to be a question that they ask.
Those on the left, there seems to be quite an organized effort to show up and ask about the Green New Deal. There’s usually one or two, or maybe even more, that will ask, “What about the Green New Deal?”
Which, when you explain at least what we’ve seen to date, we’re talking $93 trillion in cost on this country, it quickly changes that conversation.
Bluey: I bet there are issues that you’re not hearing about as well that are really different from what it seems some in Washington want to focus on. The Mueller report and impeachment and everything else that comes along with that.
McMorris Rodgers: I’ve not been asked about that once.
McMorris Rodgers: As I have been in these town meetings, at the schools, I have not been asked about it once. Yet that dominates the news, obviously.
Bluey: It certainly does. When you’re meeting with high school students, what’s on their minds and do they think about this move by some in Congress to give 16-year-olds the opportunity to vote?
McMorris Rodgers: It’s been fun to ask them directly that question. I’ve been to several high schools and I remember the first time I asked that question I wasn’t sure how would they respond.
The teacher had said, “Well, Cathy, can you ask them a question maybe on something that’s going on right now in Congress?”
It was days after we had taken that vote in the House whether or not to allow 16-year-olds to vote.
I asked them the question and not one in that class raised their hand. Then I said, “Well, over 100 representatives in the House voted yes. Over 300 voted no, so it failed.”
But I’ve continued to ask that question and I might get one or two, but the large, large majority of them say, “No, probably not the best idea.”
Bluey: You mentioned the economy earlier. I know that that’s important for people young, people who are working and really everybody, whether it’s in eastern Washington or all across this country.
… What’s fueling this economic growth? We continue to see it whether it’s the S&P and Nasdaq hitting new records or the GDP surpassing expectations. What does that mean for your constituents in eastern Washington?
McMorris Rodgers: What that means is that the people that I represent in eastern Washington have more opportunities because the job is the opportunity.
We celebrate America as this land of opportunity. It starts with the job, right? You get that first job and then you get a better paying job.
So when we’re celebrating a record economic growth and record jobs, the fact that we have more job openings than people seeking jobs, we’re celebrating people that are coming off the sidelines.
Those that had given up on finding a job are now getting back into the workforce. That means people have more opportunities. People in eastern Washington, for the longest time we would talk about how we would lose our young people. …
I live in a great corner of the world. We have a great quality of life, and yet so often after high school young people would feel like they have to leave. Or even if they stayed to go to one of our colleges or universities, they would leave after that to find a good paying job.
… We had 9,000 new jobs in Spokane County in the last year. That is great news and that means that they can stay. They can stay in Spokane, stay in eastern Washington, live this great quality of life, raise their family, start a business. You know what also it means? It means that people have freedom to take those ideas and do something with it. That is what freedom and free markets has meant.
America has led the world in innovation and breakthroughs, and I’m always inspired by those stories of the individual that started in their basement or their kitchen with an idea and then built a company. Manufacturing or a new service, a new product. When we have a good economy, it means that there’s more opportunities for that.
Bluey: It certainly is and I appreciate your passion for it. I know you come from a family that had a small business. So that is certainly an area where whether it’s passing tax cuts or working on regulatory issues, certainly Republicans in Congress made a significant impact in the first two years of the Trump administration.
McMorris Rodgers: That was our priority.
Bluey: That’s absolutely true.
McMorris Rodgers: It was to get our economy going. You remember President Barack Obama, he was talking about the new normal. That this record-low economic growth and … coming out of the Great Recession, he said this is just a new normal.
As the Republican majority, along with our president, Donald Trump, have taken on eliminating those regulations and lifting the regulatory stranglehold and the tax burden.
We’ve seen just an amazing response within our economy. Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and I’m grateful to have been raised on an orchard where we had a fruit stand.
It was very family owned and operated. Grateful for that foundation, but we want to keep that going. So that economic growth means that the engine of our economy, and especially small businesses, can do better.
Bluey: You are also known as somebody who has a care and compassion for children. You yourself are a mother of three, and somebody who’s spoken out very directly about the impact that they’ve had on your life in such a positive way.
I want to ask you about some of the debates that we’re seeing play out in other states around the country, whether it be New York passing a law that allows abortion right up until birth or the Virginia governor stating publicly his belief in infanticide, and things of that nature.
What does that say about our culture and how can we go about changing that and bringing more value to the sanctity of life?
McMorris Rodgers: Right. I so want a culture that values life, that celebrates life, celebrates every life and that potential, the dignity, and the value of every life.
Boy, when I heard what New York had done, the law that they had passed and the governor of Virginia and his [comments] … I was shocked first and foremost at the idea that a baby who had survived an abortion outside the womb would not be given health care.
So we have immediately gone to work on the born-alive legislation. It has been more difficult than it should be. In my mind, this should be a no-brainer, and especially today with the life-saving treatments and technology that we have.
Our health care system is one that is about saving lives. … We do a lot. We lead the world in saving lives, and yet this idea that somehow a baby that’s born alive would not be given health care, it’s really a shocking commentary on our culture and the devaluing of life.
In our Declaration of Independence it says it so well. You just go back to our foundation … This is a country where we’re based upon a pursuit. It’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
McMorris Rodgers: Life is pretty fundamental and we need to make sure that we’re celebrating that life either before the life is born or after it’s born. And certainly the born-alive legislation should be something that we can pass.
Bluey: Absolutely. It’s currently a discharged petition, which means Republicans have signed it and you’ve had a few Democrats who have also put their names on it, but you need more Democrats in order for it to get to that number, 218, to have a vote on the House floor.
I want to ask you about what you’ve experienced in terms of the difference now that the Democrats are in control of the House. Republicans seem to have thrown a few curve balls at them with motions to recommit and forcing votes that they might not have wanted to take.
What is it like, in your own experience, having gone from Republicans being in the majority to now Democrats controlling Congress?
McMorris Rodgers: It’s night and day. It’s very different. We were just talking about the born-alive legislation.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to bring that up for a vote in the House of Representatives. That means that our only recourse to force that vote is the discharge petition, and it means that we have to file it, we have to get 218 signatures in order to get it released from Speaker Pelosi. Then you have to wait for a certain amount of time before you can have the vote.
When you’re in the majority, you are setting the agenda. You are setting the calendar.
For the last eight years the Republicans had been in the majority in the House. We had been setting the agenda, which meant we led on tax reform. We led on a whole series of bills that were lifting the regulatory burden.
And now that’s all being done by Speaker Pelosi, it’s just a very different agenda. Unfortunately, it appears that she’s more interested in the presidential race and votes of … It’s just basically show votes.
We’ve done more resolutions this year. They’re not putting forward legislative solutions, they’re just putting forward resolutions. It’s more they just want to be able to grandstand and talk about an issue rather than really sit down and do the tough work of legislating.
Bluey: Yeah, getting things done. No, absolutely.
You have a couple of political celebrities in this new class—I’m talking about the congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar—who made a lot of news themselves.
Have you had much interaction with them or, as somebody who’s served in Congress, how do you get back to avoiding these headlines and actually getting things done on behalf of the American people?
McMorris Rodgers: Right. It seems that they’re more interested in headlines. I term them celebrity politicians, right? They’re not about actually building relationships or doing the hard work of legislating.
What is most frightening is that they are openly promoting a socialist agenda for Americans. This is the first time that I’ve ever seen it quite at this level.
I’m reminding the high school students that I visit and colleges that socialism and human rights do not coexist.
You look at the history: Socialism doesn’t celebrate every person, individual rights and human rights, and make sure that their potential is being reached. Socialism is a few people that get to make the decisions for the rest of the country.
Bluey: We’re talking about the growing economy. If you look at Heritage’s own Index of Economic Freedom, you see the socialism countries don’t provide that freedom for the people who live in places like Venezuela or North Korea. The countries that do are those who are the most economically free.
McMorris Rodgers: Yes, yes.
Bluey: Glad to hear you’re telling the high school students about that.
McMorris Rodgers: Well, yes. It’s free markets, capitalism, free markets that allows you to take that idea that you have.
We’re creative people, right? We have ideas. We’re always in search of that more perfect union, and we’re always coming up with new ideas to improve our lives. It’s in a free-market society that you can actually do something with that idea. You don’t have to ask permission of the government. And yet socialism is all controlled by a few.
That’s where … America has led the world in. … You think about health care and all the breakthroughs and new innovations. We have led the world and … we’ve lifted more people out of poverty. We’ve raised the standard of living higher than any other country in the world, and it’s because we are a free people.
Bluey: One of the other things that comes with economic freedom often is trade, and I have heard you talk about the importance of trade, particularly to Washington state, and how reliant Washington state is on having a free trade.
McMorris Rodgers: Yes.
Bluey: We have an opportunity here coming up, perhaps, with the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, which the president has negotiated.
What can you tell us about that or what prospects there might be in this Congress to take some action on trade and really help the economy grow even more?
McMorris Rodgers: Ninety-five percent of the consumers live outside of the United States of America. My vision is that America is a country that grows, that manufactures, that produces, innovates, and then sells it to the rest of the world.
In Washington state, we are. We are the most trade dependent state in the country. It’s estimated one out of every three jobs is dependent upon trade, and that is the fact that we export so much of our agriculture.
Apples, potatoes, and wheat. We export Boeing airplanes. We export Microsoft and Amazon products, and we sell it to people all over the world.
The USMCA is really important. I’m on the whip team. This is a modernization of NAFTA that the Trump administration has led. Getting USMCA approved is going to be very important.
was just down at the White House a few weeks ago, we were strategizing on how to get it done.
Part of USMCA is calling for some labor reforms in Mexico. We hope that Mexico will do that by the end of April. The clock is ticking there. Then ITC has issued its recommendations.
Once that’s in place, then the administration plans to send USMCA up to Congress and the clock will start ticking. We’ll have 60 days to get it done. My hope is that we’ll get that done by August and then we can move onto other important trade agreements with Japan and others.
I also want to just express appreciation to our president for what he’s doing with China, and being tough on China. No other administration has been willing to do that.
China has not been a good actor. China has not been honoring intellectual property rights or playing by the rules of the road.
This administration is holding China accountable. That’s very important so that China isn’t the one that’s setting the trade agenda, but it will be an agenda that’s driven by freedom-loving countries.
Bluey: We appreciate your interest in that issue, and I’m glad to learn a little bit about Washington state myself. I did not realize some of that information you shared.
Finally, I want to ask you a question about some people that you’ve tried to hold accountable. That is the big tech companies.
You have been an outspoken advocate on behalf of conservatives to make sure that their content isn’t suppressed, there’s not censorship. Why is that issue so important to you?
McMorris Rodgers: It’s pretty fundamental. It’s the First Amendment. It’s freedom of speech.
The public square today, a lot of the debate takes place on these platforms, these giant platforms. It’s so important that we are protecting that freedom of speech, and that conservative voices are not being stifled, and that we have a real freedom of that debate within the public square on the tech platforms.
… I’m also looking at privacy, how we make sure that we have transparency around what’s actually being collected, how it’s being used. There’s been too many surprises recently about information that’s being used in ways that no one was aware of.
Bluey: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, thanks so much for spending time with The Daily Signal.
McMorris Rodgers: Great to be with you. Thank you.