The Romney camp recently tapped Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., to be the presumptive GOP nominee’s liaison in Congress. She is working with Mitt Romney’s policy staff to make sure that he and congressional Republicans are speaking with one voice. She is also organizing House Republicans to rally their constituents to help elect the former Massachusetts governor. To wit, Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois—a Men’s Health cover subject—is heading the “young-American” coalition, and Rep. Dave Reichert of Washington, a former sheriff, is leading the “local law-enforcement” effort. Edited excerpts from McMorris Rodger’s interview with National Journal follow.
NJ What is it like to be both a House member and a mother of two?
McMORRIS RODGERS Well, it’s a little crazy. Every day, I want more hours in the day, just like any other working mom in America. I don’t think it’s that different than millions of other moms that are working and also caring for their family. It’s a balancing act between the responsibility of your job and then also the responsibility in your home. I have fortunately got a husband who is very supportive and, to a large degree, makes it possible for me to serve in this position. He supports me and wants me to continue to serve in Congress.
NJ I love it when women tell war stories.
McMORRIS RODGERS Cole, our oldest, just turned 5. He’s been at one of the charter schools in Washington for three or four years. This spring, he was “stepping up” to kindergarten. And, of course, they called [House] votes, like 10 minutes before 2 o’clock—and, of course, his program started at 2 o’clock. That was the day they decided to honor [Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi’s 25 years in the House of Representatives, and I just wanted to get to Cole’s program. I was able to vote, and actually the program started late and it all worked out. It makes you anxious every now and then.
NJ GOP members have a lot fewer women in senior staff positions than Democrats do. Is there a problem with Republicans hiring women or promoting them?
McMORRIS RODGERS Not that I’ve ever seen. I think it’s still a matter of encouraging conservative women to get involved in politics. This Congress, I’ve started a group called Shills on the Hill, which has been a networking organization for young Republican staffers as well as women who are working in some of the think tanks or lobbying organizations. We organize receptions where we bring in speakers. It’s to motivate, encourage, and help educate and provide a networking opportunity for young conservative women working on Capitol Hill.
NJ What does Mitt Romney need to understand about women in the electorate?
McMORRIS RODGERS Republicans won the women’s vote in 2010. Women are starting businesses at a record pace in America. Two out of three businesses right now are being started by women. They’re entrepreneurs. When you talk to them, it’s amazing how many I talk to in my own district that are starting their own businesses in the home—Internet-based businesses because of the opportunities that technology has brought women. There are a lot more opportunities to creatively come up with goods or services over the Internet. A lot of those businesses are [started by] women that have an idea and are turning it into a reality. I also reminded [Romney] that women make 85 percent of the health care decisions in this country. They fundamentally recognize how important it is that they have the ability to make those decisions for themselves.
NJ What does Romney need to understand about Congress?
McMORRIS RODGERS I think what Governor Romney needs to understand is that building these relationships is very important to his long-term success as president. We not only believe it is important that we elect him as president, but it is important that the relationships he builds with the House and the Senate members are going to help him once he is elected president in accomplishing his vision and his goals for the country. Part of it is messaging, part of it is the policy development, and then there’s always all the logistics. But it is opening up the lines of communication between Governor Romney and the members. For many members, they’re meeting him for the first time.
NJ Are some members of your caucus wary about Romney?
McMORRIS RODGERS I haven’t found them. There is a lot of enthusiasm. Yes, certainly there are members who supported other candidates in the primaries, but we believe this is the most important election of our lifetime, that we must elect a new president. And Governor Romney is our nominee. Everyone, to a person, is pulling for Governor Romney.
This article appears in the July 14, 2012 edition of National Journal Magazine.