Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Cathy Anne McMorris Rodgers (born May 22, 1969) is an American politician who is the U.S. Representative for Washington's 5th congressional district, which encompasses the eastern third of the state and includes Spokane, the state's second largest city. A Republican, McMorris Rodgers previously served in the Washington House of Representatives. From 2013 to 2019, she was the Chair of the House Republican Caucus.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Cathy McMorris Rodgers official photo.jpg
Chair of the House Republican Conference
In office
January 3, 2013 – January 3, 2019
DeputyLynn Jenkins
Doug Collins
LeaderJohn Boehner
Paul Ryan
Preceded byJeb Hensarling
Succeeded byLiz Cheney
Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference
In office
January 3, 2009 – January 3, 2013
LeaderJohn Boehner
Preceded byKay Granger
Succeeded byLynn Jenkins
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 5th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2005
Preceded byGeorge Nethercutt
Member of the Washington House of Representatives
from the 7th district
In office
January 7, 1994 – January 3, 2005
Preceded byBob Morton
Succeeded byJoel Kretz
Personal details
Cathy Anne McMorris

(1969-05-22) May 22, 1969 (age 51)
Salem, Oregon, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Brian Rodgers
(m. 2006)
EducationPensacola Christian College (BA)
University of Washington (MBA)
WebsiteHouse website

McMorris Rodgers was appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in 1994. She was elected Minority Leader of that house in 2001, becoming the first woman to lead a caucus in state history. In 2004, she was elected to succeed George Nethercutt in the U.S. House of Representatives. McMorris Rodgers rose quickly through the Republican ranks - first as conference vice-chair from 2009 to 2013, and then as chair from 2013 to 2019. She eventually became the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress. She gained national attention in 2014, when she delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address. In 2016, McMorris Rodgers was on President Donald Trump's short list to become Secretary of the Interior, but the position instead went to Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke.

Early life and educationEdit

Cathy McMorris was born May 22, 1969, in Salem, Oregon, the daughter of Corrine (née Robinson) and Wayne McMorris.[1][2] Her family had initially come to the American West in the mid-19th century as pioneers along the Oregon Trail.[3][4] In 1974, when McMorris was five years old, her family moved to Hazelton, British Columbia, Canada. The family lived in a cabin, while they built a log home on their farm.[1] In 1984, the McMorris family settled in Kettle Falls, Washington, and established the Peachcrest Fruit Basket Orchard and Fruit Stand. McMorris worked there for 13 years.[1][5]

In 1990, McMorris earned a bachelor's degree in pre-law from Pensacola Christian College, a then-unaccredited Independent Baptist liberal arts college.[6][7] McMorris Rodgers subsequently earned an Executive MBA from the University of Washington in 2002.[dead link][8]


Washington House of Representatives, 1994–2005Edit

Following the completion of her undergraduate education, McMorris was hired by State Rep. Bob Morton in 1991.[9] She served as his campaign manager, and later as his legislative assistant.[10] She became a member of the state legislature when she was appointed to the Washington House of Representatives in 1994. Her appointment filled the vacancy that temporarily remained when Rep. Bob Morton was appointed to the Washington State Senate.[10] After being sworn into office on January 11, 1994,[9] she represented the 7th Legislative District (parts or all of the counties of Ferry, Lincoln, Okanogan, Pend Oreille, Spokane, and Stevens). She successfully retained the seat in a 1994 special election.[11]

During her time in the legislature, McMorris was known for supporting business and rural communities. She supported a bill to improve the health and productivity of state forest lands.[citation needed] When asked to name an instance when she well represented her constituents' interests, she pointed to a bill she sponsored that would authorize judges to conduct procedural hearings by way of closed circuit television, thereby allowing defendants to be arraigned on video. This new agenda would reduce the time, effort, security, and money that was previously used to transport defendants to physical court hearings.[12] In 1997, she co-sponsored legislation to ban same-sex marriage in Washington State.[13][14]

According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, in 2001, she blocked legislation "to replace all references to 'Oriental' in state documents with 'Asian'", explaining that "I'm very reluctant to continue to focus on setting up different definitions in statute related to the various minority groups. I'd really like to see us get beyond that."[15]

She voted against a 2004 bill to add sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination law, and was a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage.[1] She is credited for sponsoring legislation to require the state reimburse rural hospitals for the cost of serving Medicaid patients, and for her work overcoming opposition in her own caucus to pass a controversial gas tax used to fund transportation improvements.[16]

From 2002 to 2003, she served as House Minority Leader,[5] the top leadership post for the House Republicans. She was the first woman to lead a House Caucus, and the youngest since World War II.[citation needed] She chaired the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, and the State Government Committee.[17] She stepped down as minority leader in 2003, after announcing her bid for Congress.[18] During her tenure in the legislature, she lived in Colville; she has since moved to Spokane.[citation needed]

U.S. House of Representatives, 2005–presentEdit

After serving 10 years in the Washington House of Representatives, McMorris ran in 2004 for United States House of Representatives. She won the election, and has held that office since 2005.

She is a member of the Republican Main Street Partnership,[19] the Congressional Constitution Caucus,[20] and the Congressional Western Caucus.[21]

Freshman term, 2005–2007Edit

In 2004, McMorris received 59.7%[22] of the vote in an open seat, defeating Democratic hotel magnate Don Barbieri. The district had come open when five-term incumbent George Nethercutt unsuccessfully ran in the 2004 Washington Senate election.

For the 109th United States Congress, McMorris Rodgers' committee assignments included Armed Services,[5] Natural Resources,[5] and Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Oceans, Education and Labor,[5] Speaker's High-Tech Working,[5] and Chairwoman of the National Task Force on Improving the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).[23]

McMorris Rodgers served as the freshman class representative on the Steering Committee, and on the Republican Whip Team.[5] She also joined the Republican Study Committee,[24] a caucus of conservative House Republicans.[citation needed] Also during her first term in office, she co-sponsored the "Marriage Protection Amendment", an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage that failed to pass the House in 2006.[25]

She actively protected and sought expansion of the Fairchild Air Force Base, and worked to keep the base off the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission list.[5] McMorris Rodgers co-introduced health information technology (IT) legislation, and co-leads a statewide health IT task force with Congressman Adam Smith, D-WA.[5] In 2005, McMorris Rodgers sponsored the American Competitiveness Amendment to the College Access and Opportunity Act to improve math, science, and critical foreign language education.[5] The bill was moved to the Senate in 2006, and did not become law.[26]

Sophomore term, 2007–2009Edit

McMorris in 2009 with Adm. Michael Mullen and Rep. Sanford Bishop

In November 2006, McMorris Rodgers won re-election with 56.4% of the vote, and her Democratic challenger Peter J. Goldmark earned 43.6%.[27] In 2007, she became the Republican co-chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues. The Democratic co-chairwoman was Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif. The caucus pushed for pay equity, tougher child support enforcement, women's health programs, and laws protecting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.[28]

McMorris Rodgers co-founded the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus with Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), Congressman Patrick J. Kennedy (D-RI), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).[citation needed]

Third term, 2009–2011Edit

In 2008, McMorris Rodgers received 211,305 votes (65.28%), over Democrat Mark Mays' 112,382 votes (34.72%).[29] On November 19, 2008, she was elected to serve as the Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference for the 111th United States Congress, making her the fourth–highest ranking Republican in her caucus leadership (after John Boehner, Minority Whip Eric Cantor, and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence) and the highest-ranking Republican woman.[30] In 2009, she became Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference,[31] and served until 2012, when she was succeeded by Lynn Jenkins.[32]

In 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law by President Barack Obama. Since its passing, the Seattle Times reported that McMorris Rodgers "has been a vocal critic" of the law and "has voted repeatedly to de-fund or repeal the law".[33]

Fourth term, 2011–2013Edit

112th Congress portrait

McMorris Rodgers won the 2010 general election with 150,681 votes (64%), and Democrat Daryl Romeyn received 85,686 votes (36%).[34] Romeyn spent only $2,320, against Rodgers' $1,453,240.[35]

McMorris Rodgers sponsored the Pharmacy Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2011.[36] She said that "the bill would increase competition and promote transparency, and it would make the delivery of pharmacy services much more efficient". Conservative groups, including the Americans for Tax Reform and the Cost of Government Center, came out opposed to the bill, and it was never voted on.[37] That same year, she sponsored bill H.R.2313, to repeal the authority to provide certain loans to the International Monetary Fund, but it never made it out of committee.[38]

In 2012, National Journal named McMorris Rodgers one of ten Republicans to follow on Twitter.[39] On November 14, 2012, she defeated Rep. Tom Price of Georgia to become chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.[40]

Fifth term, 2013–2015Edit

McMorris Rodgers speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D. C.

In the 2012 general election, Congresswoman Rodgers received 191,066 votes (61.9%), and Democrat Rich Cowan received 117,512 (38.9%).[41]

At the start of the 113th United States Congress, McMorris Rodgers became Chair of the Republican Conference, which is in charge of communicating the party's message to the Republican caucus. As Chair, she helps craft Republican messaging, and has appeared as spokesperson for Republican issues.[citation needed]

In March 2013, McMorris Rodgers did not support the continuation of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, but sponsored a "watered-down" alternative bill.[42][43] Ultimately, her bill failed, and the House adopted the Senate version of the bill.[42]

In late 2013, she wrote a letter blasting Democrats and accusing them of being "openly hostile to American values and the Constitution", and citing the Affordable Care Act and immigration as evidence that President Obama "rule[s] by decree".[44] In her position as Chair, she blamed the Affordable Care Act for causing unemployment, and when reported studies that proved the opposite and asked her office for evidence to support her claims, "McMorris Rodgers' office got back to us not with an answer, but with a question".[45]

McMorris Rodgers sponsored legislation that would speed the licensing process for dams and promote energy production. According to a Department of Energy study, retrofitting the largest 100 dams in the country could produce enough power for an additional 3.2 million homes. The legislation reached President Obama's desk without a single dissenter on Capitol Hill.[46]

In January 2014, it was announced that McMorris Rodgers would be giving the Republican response to President Obama's 2014 State of the Union Address. The decision was made by House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.[47][48] McMorris Rodgers is the twelfth woman to give the response,[49] and the fifth female Republican, but only the third Republican to do so solo, after New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman in 1995[50] and the Spanish response by Florida Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the most senior female Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, in 2011. Ros-Lehtinen also gave the Spanish response this year, which was largely a translation of McMorris Rogers' remarks.[51] The following month, the Office of Congressional Ethics recommended that the United States House Committee on Ethics initiate a probe into allegations by a former McMorris Rodgers staff member that the congresswoman had improperly mixed campaign money and official funds to help win the 2012 GOP leadership race against Rep. Price. McMorris Rodgers denied the allegations.[52]

After voting dozens of times to repeal Obamacare, McMorris Rodgers responded in 2014 to reports that Obama's program had provided coverage to over 600,000 Washington residents by acknowledging that the law's framework would probably remain, and that she favored reforms within its structure.[53]

Sixth term, 2015–2017Edit

In November 2014, Rodgers faced off against Joe Pakootas, the first Native American candidate to run for Congress in Washington state. McMorris Rodgers received 135,470 votes (60.68%), and Democrat Joe Pakootas received 87,772 (39.32%).[54]

McMorris Rodgers speaking at a press conference with House leadership, including Speaker Paul Ryan, in Washington.

In March 2015, McMorris Rodgers posted on Facebook asking constituents to share problems that had arisen due to the Affordable Care Act. Instead, her Facebook page was "filled with testimonials to the benefits of the Affordable Care Act".[55]

In September 2015, Brett O'Donnell, who worked for Rodgers, plead guilty to lying to House ethics investigators about how much campaign work he did while being paid by lawmakers' office accounts, becoming the first person ever to be convicted of lying to the House Office of Congressional Ethics.[56] The OCE found that McMorris Rodgers improperly used campaign funds to pay O'Donnell for help in her congressional office, and improperly held a debate prep session in her congressional office. A lawyer for McMorris Rodgers denied that campaign and official resources had ever been improperly mixed. The House Ethics Committee did not take any action on the matter.[56]

McMorris Rodgers worked to bring about a new approach at forest management in the Colville National Forest. The Mill Creek A to Z program was touted as the first stewardship partnership between a National Forest and a private company. The pilot program aimed to restore the 54,000-acre Mill Creek watershed. The A to Z project is focused on removing small trees and underbrush, while leaving old growth trees uncut. It also aims to restore streams and riparian zones.[57]

McMorris Rodgers has long been a champion of the Fairchild Air Force Base, and has written multiple letters urging Pentagon officials to move the KC-46A aerial refueling tanker to Fairchild.[58] In May 2016, she voted in favor of legislation that authorized critical funding for the base.[59]

McMorris Rodgers has been critical of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, citing long wait times and inadequate standards of veteran care. In September 2016, she voted in support of the VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act (HR 5620), which would strengthen whistleblower protections, reform the Department's disability benefits, and provide additional authority to the VA Secretary to reprimand employees for poor performance or misconduct. The legislation passed the House in September.[60]

McMorris Rodgers voted to prevent the transfer to detainees from the military prison at Guantanamo Bay on September 15. In announcing her decision, she cited a report that said over 30% of detainees released from the prison return to some form of jihad.[61]

Following Donald Trump's 2016 election as President, McMorris Rodgers became the vice-chair of his transition team. She was widely considered a top choice to become Secretary of the Interior.[62] Several papers went so far as to announce she had been chosen.[63][64] Instead, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke was nominated.[65][66][67]

Seventh term, 2017–2019Edit

In the 2016 election, McMorris Rodgers received the most votes, 192,959 (59.64%), and Democrat Joe Pakootas received 130,575 votes (40.36%).[68]

In May 2017, McMorris Rodgers voted in favor of the American Health Care Act, a Republican health-care plan designed to repeal and replace large portions of the Affordable Care Act. McMorris Rodgers was the only member of Washington's congressional delegation to vote for the bill, which narrowly passed the House by a 217-213 vote.[69] The bill would have eliminated the individual mandate, made large cuts to Medicaid, and allowed insurers to charge higher rates to people with pre-existing conditions.[70] McMorris Rodgers wrote an op-ed published by The Washington Post explaining her support of the American Health Care Act in which she claimed that the bill would guarantee "that access to health coverage can't be denied for people with pre-existing conditions", and that it would lower insurance costs through reforms such as allowing plans to be purchased across state lines.[71]

On June 27, 2017, McMorris released a statement supporting the FCC repeal of net neutrality.[72]

Eighth term, 2019-2021Edit

In the November 2018 general election, McMorris Rodgers faced Democratic nominee Lisa Brown, a former majority leader of the state Senate, and former chancellor of WSU Spokane. In the August blanket primary, McMorris Rodgers received 49.29 percent of the vote to 45.36 percent for Brown.[73]

As of early August, McMorris Rodgers had raised about $3.8 million, and Brown had raised about $2.4 million.[74] McMorris Rodgers and Brown participated in a September 2018 candidate debate. Both candidates said they would oppose any cuts to Medicare or Social Security. Both candidates said they supported the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. An audience member asked how old the candidates believed the Earth to be; Rodgers said she believed the account in the Bible, and "Brown said she believed in science, but didn't provide a specific age".[75]

In the November general election, McMorris defeated Brown with 55% of the vote.[76]

Shortly following the election, McMorris Rodgers announced she would stand down from her position as conference chair. Liz Cheney of Wyoming was elected in January 2019 to succeed her.[77]

Interest group ratingsEdit

2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 Selected interest group ratings[78]
75 72 72 84 80 96 96 American Conservative Union
0 0 5 0 0 0 0 Americans for Democratic Action
58 62 59 70 61 94 82 Club for Growth
0 0 22 American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
92 92 75 83 90 100 Family Research Council
70 76 72 89 84 National Taxpayers Union
100 93 83 100 100 100 80 Chamber of Commerce of the United States
0 5 4 9 7 3 10 League of Conservation Voters

Committee assignmentsEdit

As of March 2017, McMorris Rodgers is currently on the:

Electoral historyEdit

Year Office District Democratic Republican
2004[81] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Don Barbieri 40.32% (121,333) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 59.68% (179,600)
2006[82] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Peter J. Goldmark 43.60% (104,357) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 56.40% (134,967)
2008[83] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Mark Mays 34.72% (112,382) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 65.28% (211,305)
2010[84] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Daryl Romeyn 36.33% (101,146) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 63.67% (177,235)
2012[85] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Rich Cowan 38.08% (117,512) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 61.92% (191,066)
2014[86] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Joseph (Joe) Pakootas 39.32% (87,772) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 60.68% (135,470)
2016[87] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Joe Pakootas 40.36% (130,575) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 59.64% (192,959)
2018[88] U.S. House of Representatives Washington 5th District Lisa Brown 45.24% (144,925) Cathy McMorris Rodgers 54.76% (175,422)

Political positionsEdit

Travel banEdit

McMorris Rodgers supported President Donald Trump's 2017 executive order to block entry to the United States to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations, characterizing the order as necessary "to protect the American people".[89]

Health careEdit

After voting dozens of times to repeal Obamacare, McMorris Rodgers responded in 2014 to reports that Obama's program had provided coverage to over 600,000 Washington residents by acknowledging that the law's framework would probably remain, and that she favored reforms within its structure.[53] In May 2017, she voted for American Health Care Act of 2017, which would have repealed Obamacare, and defended her vote in a The Washington Post op-ed column.[71] For her 2018 re-election campaign, McMorris Rodgers no longer mentioned the Affordable Care Act.[90]

LGBT rightsEdit

McMorris Rodgers opposes same-sex marriage, and co-sponsored legislation in 1997 that would ban same-sex marriage in Washington state.[13][91] When a bill was introduced in the state legislature in 2004 that would ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, she voted against it; another bill was introduced in 2006, one year after McMorris Rodgers entered the House of Representatives. This bill was subsequently passed and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire shortly after.[1]

During an interview with Nick Gillespie in 2014, McMorris Rodgers stated her belief that marriage should be between a man and a woman, but also indicated her belief that marriage is a state, not federal, issue, and that her party had been overtly hostile to LGBT people, saying "the Republicans are about empowering everyone; individuals, no matter who you are, no matter your background, and we [Republicans], we have to reach out to people across this country".[92]

School safetyEdit

In 2018, McMorris Rodgers co-sponsored the STOP (Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing) School Violence Act, which established a federal grant program to "provide $50 million a year for a new federal grant program to train students, teachers, and law enforcement on how to spot and report signs of gun violence", and authorize $25 million for new physical security measures in schools, such as "new locks, lights, metal detectors, and panic buttons". A separate spending bill would be required to provide money for the grant program. The House voted 407-10 to approve the bill.[93]

Personal lifeEdit

Cathy McMorris married Brian Rodgers on August 5, 2006, in San Diego. Brian Rodgers is a retired Navy commander and a Spokane, Washington, native. Brian Rodgers is also a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, and the son of David H. Rodgers, the mayor of Spokane from 1967 to 1977. In February 2007, she changed her name to Cathy McMorris Rodgers.[94] Having long resided in Stevens County–first Colville, then Deer Park–she now lives in Spokane.

In April 2007, she became the first member of Congress in more than a decade to give birth while in office, with the birth of Cole Rodgers.[95] The couple later announced that their child had been diagnosed with Down syndrome.[96] A second child, Grace, was born December 2010, and a third, Brynn Catherine, in November 2013.[97][98]

According to the Official Congressional Directory, she is a member of Grace Evangelical Free Church in Colville.[99][100]

See alsoEdit


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  2. ^ "Vesta Delaney Obituary". Bollman Funeral Home. 2013. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014.
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  6. ^ "Can Cathy McMorris Rodgers resurrect compassionate conservatism?". The Washington Post. January 28, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2014.
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  8. ^ "Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.)". Roll Call. 2014. Retrieved January 25, 2014.
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  14. ^ "HB 1130 – 1997-98: Re-affirming and protecting the institution of marriage". Washington State Legislature. June 11, 1998.
  15. ^ Galloway, Angela (April 6, 2001). "Effort to excise 'Oriental' from state documents may be revived". Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
  16. ^ "The Times Endorses McMorris in the 5th" (editorial). Seattle Post-Intelligencer. October 22, 2004.
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  38. ^ "Bill Summary & Status – 112th Congress (2011–2012) – H.R.2313". Library of Congress. Retrieved May 17, 2012.
  39. ^ "Ten Republicans to follow on Twitter", by Adam Mazmanian, National Journal, August 27, 2012. Retrieved November 20, 2015.
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  59. ^ "McMorris Rodgers Applauds Passage of Defense Authorization | Cathy McMorris Rodgers".
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  61. ^ "House Votes to Temporarily Block Guantanamo Transfers". Washington Free Beacon.
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  68. ^ "Congressional District 5". Archived from the original on December 21, 2016.
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External linksEdit

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
George Nethercutt
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Washington's 5th congressional district

Party political offices
Preceded by
Kay Granger
Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Lynn Jenkins
Preceded by
Jeb Hensarling
Chair of the House Republican Conference
Succeeded by
Liz Cheney
Preceded by
Marco Rubio
Response to the State of the Union address
Succeeded by
Joni Ernst
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Patrick McHenry
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Gwen Moore