McMorris Rodgers Delivers GOP Talk of Empowerment

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) sits on a couch as she prepares for responding to President Barack Obama tonight's State of the Union address January 28, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the House Republican Conference, was picked to deliver the response.
National Journal
Billy House
Jan. 28, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

Un­der­scor­ing themes of fam­ily, per­son­al em­power­ment, and de­cision-mak­ing over “a gov­ern­ment that de­cides for you,” Rep. Cathy Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers offered an al­tern­ate Re­pub­lic­an ver­sion of the “no dream is too big” prom­ise in the of­fi­cial re­but­tal to Pres­id­ent Obama’s State of the Uni­on ad­dress.

The highest-rank­ing House Re­pub­lic­an wo­man — and the moth­er of three young chil­dren, all born dur­ing her time in Con­gress — Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers, 44, was tapped to de­liv­er on na­tion­al TV a fresh con­trast to the pres­id­ent’s mes­sage. The se­lec­tion of the Wash­ing­ton state law­maker also provided push­back to por­tray­als of a polit­ic­al party at war with wo­men.

And Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers’s per­form­ance went bey­ond simply lay­ing out gen­er­al ele­ments of a GOP agenda that, she stressed, would bet­ter tackle the na­tion’s job­less rates “without more spend­ing, gov­ern­ment bail­outs, and red tape,” and would im­prove edu­ca­tion, re­duce en­ergy costs, and cut taxes.

She touched on some highly per­son­al areas as well. As re­cently as Novem­ber, she and her hus­band, Bri­an Rodgers, de­livered their third child. But it was their first child — Cole, born in 2007 with Down syn­drome — that she ref­er­enced in a cri­ti­cism of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

“Cole and his sis­ters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more de­term­ined to see the po­ten­tial in every hu­man life — that wheth­er we are born with an ex­tra 21st chro­mo­some or without a dol­lar to our name — we are not defined by our lim­its, but by our po­ten­tial,” she said.

“Re­pub­lic­ans be­lieve health care choices should be yours, not the gov­ern­ment’s,” she said. “And that wheth­er you’re a boy with Down syn­drome or a wo­man with breast can­cer, you can find cov­er­age and a doc­tor who will treat you.”

And her ef­forts to de­liv­er a gentler view of Re­pub­lic­ans and their agenda went bey­ond that. For in­stance, the Re­pub­lic­an Con­fer­ence chair (the fourth-highest elec­ted post in the House GOP caucus) also talked about what she said were “more im­port­ant mo­ments” than those oc­cur­ring in the Oval Of­fice or the House cham­ber.

“They’re in your homes,” she said. “Kiss­ing your kids good night. Fig­ur­ing out how to pay the bills. Get­ting ready for to­mor­row’s doc­tor’s vis­it. Wait­ing to hear from those you love serving in Afgh­anistan, or search­ing for that big job in­ter­view….

“To­night the pres­id­ent made more prom­ises that sound good, but won’t solve the prob­lems ac­tu­ally fa­cing Amer­ic­ans. We want you to have a bet­ter life. The pres­id­ent wants that too,” Mc­Mor­ris Rodgers said. “But we part ways when it comes to how to make that hap­pen.”

Against this back­drop, she said, the GOP’s vis­ion is one that em­powers and trusts people to make their own de­cisions, “not a gov­ern­ment that de­cides for you,” and that it is Re­pub­lic­ans who are work­ing to close the “gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be.”

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