Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., was the first woman ever elected chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. And now, as the ranking Republican on the panel, McMorris Rodgers is pushing back on the far left’s harmful climate policies and fighting to protect American jobs. 

McMorris Rodgers joins the show to talk about that and to discuss her concerns with new guidelines on reopening schools from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And she breaks down what you need to know about the fight to defend the Hyde Amendment. 

Also on today’s show, we talk with former Cosmopolitan writer Sue Ellen Browder, author of  the book “Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement” about her journey into and out of progressive feminism.

And as always, we will crown our “Problematic Woman of the Week.” Listen to the podcast below or ready the lightly edited transcript. 

Virginia Allen: I am so pleased to be joined by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state as we continue to celebrate Women’s History Month right here at The Daily Signal. Representative, welcome back to the show.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers: Thank you, Virginia. It’s great to be with you.

Allen: So we are in the middle of celebrating Women’s History Month here at The Daily Signal. And all during this month, we have been talking about women who have broken ground in their own families, in their communities and across America. You’ve been breaking ground for a long time. You started as a young person. You were the first individual in your family to attend college. Would you just share a little bit about what was motivating you even as a teenager to do things that maybe those around you hadn’t done before?

McMorris Rodgers: Yes. Graduating from college and getting my degree. It was really my parents’ dream for me. For as long as I could remember, every penny that I earned, my mom and dad, they would say, “Now, Cathy, you save that. You saved that money so that you can go to college one day.”

My parents owned an orchard and fruit stand in a small town in Eastern Washington—Kettle Falls, Washington—and I grew up working alongside my brother and my parents selling cherries, peaches, apricots.

I worked my way through McDonald’s and at a housekeeping job, not the easiest or the most fun job—part of the motivation to graduate from college—but I’m so grateful for those experiences. And I learned to appreciate hard work and perseverance and what it takes to imagine what’s possible and then work hard to make it happen. That’s the American dream.

So I would have never imagined back then when I was working my way through college and getting that degree that I would have been elected to Congress, to the House of Representatives, as the 200th woman ever to serve in the House of Representatives. It’s been an amazing journey.

Allen: That’s so special. And thank you for sharing some of that background. It is amazing to see how so many individuals like yourself. I think sometimes we can think of representatives on the Hill as you just sort of rose to this place of power, but you all have lived these incredible lives, and often like yourself, have come really just from those American roots of working hard and then really finding, ‘All right, I can make a difference and I can make an impact.’

And I want to talk about one of the other ways that you have really done that. You have continued to break ground throughout your life and you, not long ago, were named the first woman who was ever elected to chair the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This is the oldest continually standing committee in the House. And of course, you’re now the ranking Republican member on that committee. Would you just share some of your key policy goals as you continue to serve in leadership on this committee?

McMorris Rodgers: Absolutely. It’s really exciting to lead for the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This committee has been around nearly from the very beginning, 1795, and it has a rich history of tackling some of the biggest challenges facing the country. The issues that are at the forefront of this committee are really going to define our future and whether or not America leads and wins the future.

And it’s pretty special to be the first woman to lead for either party on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. I remember soon after when I was named to this position, I was walking on the House floor and I was headed up there to vote, and I bumped into Anna Eshoo, who is a Democrat longtime member on the other side of the aisle, and she gave me this big hug and she said, “Congratulations, Cathy. You’re the first woman to do this.”

Then she turned to Rosa DeLauro, who’s now the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and she just was like, “Do you know Cathy is the first on ENC?” And so it was a moment when we were celebrating.

And you think it was just a hundred years ago that women gained the right to vote in America and now women are taking on more of these leadership positions.

And as the ranking Republican, as the lead Republican on this committee, my goal is to build upon the strong foundation that has been led in this committee. We have eight new members on the Republican side and they’re all rock stars. They really have a lot to contribute to the team. Some of the issues that are at the forefront of ENC, we’re going to continue to be at the forefront of crushing the virus, rebuilding our economy, ensuring that American leadership is at the forefront and that we continue to be the best place in the world to innovate, to save lives, to lift people out of poverty.

Allen: I love that. I love that you were able to celebrate with your colleagues in that moment of being that first woman elected. That’s so special. Talk a little bit about now how you are working with your Democratic colleagues on that committee as there are a lot of issues that are between parties, there is an agreement.

McMorris Rodgers: That’s true. This committee has a rich history of doing the hard work, of legislating. It means Republicans and Democrats coming together and really plowing the hard ground necessary to work on legislation, and we get better results when we do that.

And this committee has really led on some of the biggest issues facing the country, whether it’s around energy, energy security, which is so important to our economy, to competitiveness, to our national security, health care, curing diseases, as well as technology.

Unfortunately, this Congress, we’re still at the beginning of this Congress, but Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi seems to be wanting to do it alone. … The Democrats just released their green energy future bill that is focused on eliminating carbon. But what I see is a down payment on the Green New Deal.

It’s a lot more top-down, Washington D.C.-knows-best regulations, and it really is making us more vulnerable to China. It’s a threat to our national and energy security, our grid reliability, energy affordability, our global competitive edge.

So we’re going to continue to highlight why American energy independence is so important, why policies like canceling the Keystone [XL] Pipeline on day one of the Biden administration is so damaging. It is damaging to individuals and families in the middle of a pandemic.

In 2019, this is a fun fact, there were more than 400,000 women working in oil, natural gas, and the petrochemical industries. And this is not the time to be jeopardizing those jobs, especially when so many Americans are facing unemployment.

So what we need to be doing is focusing on how does America lead? How do we make sure that American technology and innovation is winning the future and not start down this path of Washington D.C.-knows-best, Green New Deal-style mandates.

Allen: Well, a critical part of this debate is talking about the impact on real Americans that we’re looking at as these very progressive, climate and energy policies are pushed forward by the left. Really what’s at stake is American jobs, and not just jobs as you say for men, but also for women, correct?

McMorris Rodgers: That’s so true, 400,000 women that are in the industry. But I would just highlight that the Democrats, their socialist agenda is really focused on policies that are going to make us more dependent upon China. They’re promoting solar and wind and batteries, and look at who’s manufacturing that. Ninety percent of the solar panels are coming from China. Eighty percent of the windmills are coming from China. They control 90% of … the rare earth minerals. And so they’re the ones controlling the battery storage and manufacturing right now.

So in order for America to lead, we need to do it the American way. And that means that be promoting, yes, carbon capture and natural gas and clean coal and hydro power. And that is all part of our clean energy future. That’s where America can lead and export to other countries around the world, rather than making us dependent upon China and costing us jobs in the United States.

Allen: Absolutely. I want to pivot and talk a little bit about another subject that I know is on the minds of many Americans right now and that’s education, getting our kids back to school. Of course, we’re right here at the year marker from really when the pandemic hit and closed everything down. Many kids have still not returned to school.

On Feb. 18, you sent a letter to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, expressing concerns over the newly released guidelines for reopening schools. And you said that those guidelines, you saw them actually leading to more school closures instead of reopenings. What is it that concerns you so much about these new CDC school guidelines?

McMorris Rodgers: Well, unfortunately these new CDC guidelines are so restrictive that after a year since the national emergency was put into place, they are going to continue to keep schools from opening.

In Washington state, only 26% of our schools have opened. And just earlier this week, we had four doctors who wrote in USA Today, they were talking about how the CDC misinterpreted their research to draft the school guidance and that the impact of keeping kids locked down at home in isolation is only going to lead to other concerns.

I hear about this in my community. Almost every day, I’m hearing from a parent who is concerned about their kids, that they’re on virtual school but they’re sleeping throughout the day. Or a mental health therapist who was telling me that her caseload has nearly doubled. The number of kids that are in crisis is really frightening to me.

We’re hearing about more kids that are attempting suicides and the suicide rate on the increases. It’s like we have this mental health crisis developing within the pandemic and we need to get our kids back in school.

We can do it in a safe and responsible way. We’ve learned a lot in the last year. We are not where we were a year ago, and I hope that the [Biden] administration will listen, listen to doctors like those that came forward in USA Today. They’re raising this alarm and urging the schools to reopen.

Allen: Did you get a response from Director Walensky after you wrote her that letter?

McMorris Rodgers: I’m still waiting for that response. I talked to her early on and she said that she wants to open schools, but the guidelines that they’ve put in place are so restrictive right now that I fear schools are not going to be able to reopen.

Allen: Yeah. Why do you think the Biden administration has taken the approach that it has to reopening schools and being so hesitant to do so?

McMorris Rodgers: Well, unfortunately it seems like so much of it is being driven by fear instead of the science, because if you follow the science, we know that the transmission rate among kids is very low. The transmission of COVID-19 between a child and a teacher is very low.

We’ve seen in some of the states that have opened as well as in other countries around the world that the risk or the fear that they are promoting or suggesting may happen, it just isn’t happening.

President Biden, at the beginning, he said he wanted to open schools. And then we heard, well, his goal is one day per week, right? I just would impress upon the Biden administration, the CDC, that every day that goes by that our schools remain closed and that this lockdown and the forced isolation continues, that our kids are falling behind.

They’re falling behind in their schoolwork, but they’re also facing more and more of the anxiety around being at home. The reality of isolation is having a negative impact. The kids that are in crisis continue to increase, and we need to face this like a crisis.

We need to open our schools in a safe and responsible way. The science suggests that we can, and we need to stop making excuses and living in fear and actually get our schools open and do what’s in the best interest of our kids.

Allen: Absolutely. Now I do want to take just a moment to talk about the Hyde Amendment, because that’s something that you have been so on the forefront of defending. For anyone in our audience who’s maybe not familiar with the Hyde Amendment, could you just give a brief explanation of what it is?

McMorris Rodgers: Sure. The Hyde Amendment is named after Congressman Henry Hyde, who was the champion of this language, this law that says no taxpayer funding will be put toward abortion. So it prohibits the taxpayer funding of abortion.

It’s been the law of the land for over 40 years now in the United States of America. And the large, large majority of Americans do not want to have taxpayer-funded abortions.

Allen: Do you see this as a partisan issue, the Hyde Amendment?

McMorris Rodgers: Well, it has enjoyed bipartisan support. It has enjoyed the support of even people like President Joe Biden before he was elected president. He had been a strong supporter of the Hyde Amendment.

In this latest COVID relief package, in the $1.9 trillion package, it’s the first time that the Hyde Amendment protections were not included in a COVID relief package.

So we’ve passed four COVID relief packages to date. All of them included the Hyde protections. The Democrats this time decided not to include that. So it means that the funding in this package is not protected by Hyde, which means that taxpayer funding could be used in for funding of abortions.

We’re making the case that this is not an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars, that [the Hyde Amendment] has long enjoyed strong bipartisan support.

And then I would also make the case that science is clear that because of technology today, we can look into the womb. We can watch day by day the development of a life, of a baby.

And even now, doctors can administer life-saving treatment prenatally because of research and therapy. It just reaffirms the miracle of life. So we need to be as a country continuing to celebrate life and all that it means at every stage from conception to death.

Allen: Are you concerned that … there may be a real strong push to repeal the Hyde Amendment, and that we perhaps would see that?

McMorris Rodgers: I am concerned that this is an indicator as to where Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats intend to go, that this is going to be one of the big fights of this Congress to protect the Hyde Amendment in the appropriations bills, as well as just in general.

And I’ve heard some Democrats say that this is their goal, to remove the Hyde Amendment. So this is one where we need to raise the awareness and make sure that taxpayers and citizens across this country are delivering a strong message to Congress to continue to protect the Hyde Amendment.

Allen: Final question before we let you go, we’ll end on a little bit of a lighter note. Throughout this month, as we say it’s Women’s History Month and one of the questions I’ve been asking our guests this month is, if they could go back in time and they could give their 25-year-old, their 30-year-old self one piece of advice, what would that be?

McMorris Rodgers: I would say, take more risk. Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back. I think especially as women, we just need to go out there and be risk-takers, be trailblazers.

It’s really exciting that in this hundredth anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, that we have a record number of conservative Republican women that are elected to Congress. We now have 30, and they are all rock stars and they’re risk-takers.

Allen: I love that. Oh, that’s so good. Sen. Marsha Blackburn said something very, very similar last week. So we have a trend of “Be bold and take risk.” I like it.

McMorris Rodgers: Absolutely.

Allen: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Representative, for joining us today.

McMorris Rodgers: Great to be with you. Thank you.