Almanac A members-only database of searchable profiles compiled and adapted from the Almanac of American Politics

Biography

Elected: 1988, 13th term.

Born: December 28, 1936, Chicago, IL

Home: Seattle, WA

Education: Wheaton Col., B.S. 1958, U. of IL, M.D. 1963

Professional Career: Asst. prof., U. of WA, Practicing psychiatrist, 1970–83; Medical officer, U.S. Foreign Svc., Zaire, 1987–88.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Episcopalian

Family: Divorced , 2 children; 3 grandchildren

Democrat Jim McDermott, first elected in 1988, has long been one of Congress’ most liberal members, and he is a persistent attack dog against Republican policies that he complains, often caustically, are unfair to the middle class.

McDermott grew up in the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, one of three boys, and was the first in his family to attend college. His father, a fundamentalist Christian, ministered in a church run out of the garage. McDermott graduated from conservative Christian Wheaton College, the alma mater of the Rev. Billy Graham. He went on to get a medical degree from the University of Illinois and did the last two years of his psychiatric residency at the University of Washington. He fell in love with the area and decided to make it his home. But first, with the Vietnam War under way, McDermott volunteered for a stint in the Navy as a psychiatrist. The experience left him adamantly opposed to the war, and when he returned to Seattle, he got involved in politics. In 1970, while he was operating his medical practice, he was elected to the state House, and in 1974, he was elected to the state Senate. He ran for governor three times and lost every time. In 1987, he retired from the legislature and went to Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) as a medical officer in the Foreign Service. When the House seat opened in 1988, he returned to Seattle and won easily, beating Norm Rice 38%-29% in the primary and taking 76% in the general. He is the only psychiatrist in the House.

McDermott is upfront about his legislative interests, which tend not to include the parochial matters that consume some of his congressional colleagues. He has promoted health issues overseas; he founded and chaired the Congressional Task Force on International HIV/AIDS. He also sponsored a measure that at first seemed quixotic but was enacted in 2000: The African Growth and Opportunity Act, which reduced import quotas and tariffs on African goods and included investment funds. More recently, he has introduced bills requiring the Internal Revenue Service to provide to taxpayers a detailed breakdown of how their money is spent.

McDermott is equally upfront in voicing his displeasure with the GOP. During debate over the fiscal 2014 budget, he mocked the Republicans’ oft-stated talking point that no family would run its household finances like the federal government. “I don’t know any family in America that would use their children’s lunch money to pay down their credit cards,” he said on the House floor. In April 2011, he said on the floor, “The difference between a Boy Scout troop and this House of Representatives is that the Boy Scout troop has adult leadership.” He issued a video calling the tea party “the most nonsensical display of people not thinking” that he had seen in decades.

In his early years in the House, McDermott rose quickly in influence. Democratic Leader Tom Foley of Washington state tapped him for influential assignments. His great cause has been health care, but he has shared the frustration many have felt in dealing with the issue. He has long backed a single-payer, Canadian-style national health insurance program. During the health care debate in 2009 and 2010, he pushed for a government-run “public option” to compete with private insurers. He became ranking Democrat in 2013 on the Ways and Means Committee’s health panel, giving him an added platform for his rejoinders to GOP criticisms of the health care law. He predicted in 2012 that Republicans seeking to repeal the law likely would take advantage of it to keep their children on their insurance policies until they turn 26, something he called “the height of hypocrisy.”

McDermott was harshly critical of the Bush administration on a number of fronts, especially the war in Iraq. In September 2002, with a congressional delegation in Baghdad, McDermott said in a statement broadcast on ABC’s This Week that Bush was willing to “mislead the American people,” and that he found Iraqi Leader Saddam Hussein to be more credible than Bush. But his antiwar sentiments are also bipartisan: He has also castigated the Obama administration for its Middle East policies.

A longtime ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, McDermott in the opening days of the 110th Congress (2007-08) helped shape the House-passed bill to rescind some tax breaks for oil companies. As a senior member of Ways and Means, he was the lead sponsor of bills between 2008 and 2010 that extended unemployment benefits for American workers. He also shepherded to enactment legislation aimed at improving foster care programs through initiatives such as allowing children to remain in foster care until age 21.

McDermott stirred controversy in 2004 when he omitted the words “under God” as he led the House in its daily Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. After leaders of both parties criticized him, he replied that his omission had not been deliberate. In 2007, he was attacked by conservatives for voting against a House resolution recognizing the importance of Christmas. He drew more headlines in December 2012 after a visit to Bali to attend a democracy forum and promote exports of Washington’s produce. His estimated expenses of $21,000 were covered by Chemonics International, a Washington, D.C., company that contracts with the government on global development projects.

McDermott was also bogged down in a years-long partisan battle with House Republicans stemming from an incident when he was ranking minority member on the Ethics Committee during its consideration in 1997 of charges against Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich. Two Democratic activists in Florida happened to tape from a police scanner a cell phone conversation between Ohio Republican John Boehner and other GOP leaders. They gave the tape to McDermott. A few days later, excerpts from it appeared in newspapers. Boehner sued McDermott in federal court for invasion of privacy, and the case lingered in the courts for years.

McDermott approached Boehner in 2002—they had not spoken in the 12 years they served together—and sought to settle the case. He agreed to one of Boehner’s demands, that he apologize to the House. But he would not agree to the other two: admit that he was wrong and make a contribution to charity. In 2004, the judge found McDermott guilty of violating the federal wiretapping law and ordered him to pay $60,000 in damages and $500,000 in attorneys’ fees. McDermott appealed the ruling. But the court case took yet another turn against him in 2007, when the divided D.C. Circuit Court concluded that House rules on confidentiality barred him from disclosing the contents of the tape. The judges ordered payment of the damages to Boehner. McDermott claimed the ruling infringed on his free speech rights and took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to hear it. In April 2008, a federal judge ordered McDermott to pay Boehner over $1.2 million in legal fees.

His outspokenness has not hurt McDermott in Seattle, where he regularly wins reelection with more than 70% of the vote. He considered running against Republican Sen. Slade Gorton in 2000, but backed away soon after he underwent open heart surgery, saying he didn’t want to raise the $8 million that would be required. Two months after his 2010 reelection, a Palm Springs, Calif., man was arrested for phone calls in which he allegedly threatened to kill McDermott as well as his friends and family. During his 2012 race, he had to deal with headlines about a messy divorce from his second wife.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3106

(202) 225-6197

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1035
Washington, DC 20515-4707

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 225-3106

(202) 225-6197

LHOB- Longworth House Office Building Room 1035
Washington, DC 20515-4707

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 553-7170

(206) 553-7175

Tower Building Suite 409
Seattle, WA 98101-1399

DISTRICT OFFICE

(206) 553-7170

(206) 553-7175

Tower Building Suite 409
Seattle, WA 98101-1399

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 21786
Seattle, WA 98111

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

PO Box 21786
Seattle, WA 98111

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Animal Rights

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Arts

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Tobin Williamson
Community Liaison

Budget

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Tobin Williamson
Community Liaison

Commerce

Lee Slade
Community Liaison

lee.slade@mail.house.gov
(206) 553-7170

Communication

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Disaster

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Economics

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Lee Slade
Community Liaison

lee.slade@mail.house.gov
(206) 553-7170

Education

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Haig Hovsepian
Legislative Assistant

Energy

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Family

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Finance

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Lee Slade
Community Liaison

lee.slade@mail.house.gov
(206) 553-7170

Tobin Williamson
Community Liaison

Foreign

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Govt Ops

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Gun Issues

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Health

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Daniel Foster
Health Counsel

Haig Hovsepian
Legislative Assistant

Homeland Security

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Housing

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Haig Hovsepian
Legislative Assistant

Immigration

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Intelligence

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Internet

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Judiciary

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Labor

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Daniel Foster
Health Counsel

Land Use

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Medicare

Daniel Foster
Health Counsel

Military

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Native Americans

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Public Works

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Recreation

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Rules

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Science

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Haig Hovsepian
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Social Security

Daniel Foster
Health Counsel

Tax

Diane Shust
Chief of Staff

Technology

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Telecommunications

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Jason Lemons
Legislative Correspondent; Legislative Assistant

Trade

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Lee Slade
Community Liaison

lee.slade@mail.house.gov
(206) 553-7170

Transportation

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Veterans

Laura Hughes
Foreign Policy and Military Affairs Advisor

Women

Jacqueline Gosnell
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2012 GENERAL
Jim McDermott
Votes: 298,368
Percent: 79.65%
Ron Bemis
Votes: 76,212
Percent: 20.35%
2012 PRIMARY
Jim McDermott
Votes: 124,692
Percent: 70.91%
Ron Bemis
Votes: 26,791
Percent: 15.24%
Andrew Hughes
Votes: 10,340
Percent: 5.88%
2010 GENERAL
Jim McDermott
Votes: 232,649
Percent: 82.97%
Bob Jeffers-Schroder
Votes: 47,741
Percent: 17.03%
2010 PRIMARY
Jim McDermott
Votes: 110,914
Percent: 80.0%
Bob Jeffers-Schroder
Votes: 8,860
Percent: 6.0%
2008 GENERAL
Jim McDermott
Votes: 291,963
Percent: 83.65%
Steve Beren
Votes: 57,054
Percent: 16.35%
Prior Winning Percentages
2010 (83%), 2008 (84%), 2006 (79%), 2004 (81%), 2002 (74%), 2000 (73%), 1998 (88%), 1996 (81%), 1994 (75%), 1992 (78%), 1990 (72%), 1988 (76%)

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