Democratic challenger Daryl Romeyn tried to paint Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers as a do-nothing incumbent who has no solutions for federal deficits, illegal immigration, high school dropouts or childhood obesity.
McMorris Rodgers suggested Romeyn was someone who didn’t understand complex forest issues and would tax small businesses out of existence and set off a trade war with China.
In their first – and likely only – televised debate, the three-term congresswoman and the former television reporter agreed on very little Tuesday except for the importance of the American dream and the need to secure the nation’s borders before addressing other problems with illegal immigration. Those few seconds of agreement on immigration were closed off with Romeyn’s suggestion that McMorris Rodgers should’ve done something about it already: “She’s been there six years.”
Asked how to cut unemployment and boost the region’s economy, Romeyn suggested programs to manufacture airplane parts and help for timber and farm communities. McMorris Rodgers said it’s not government programs but government stability on taxes, regulations and health care costs that will get businesses hiring again.
“We need to calm the waters, first of all,” she said.
Both danced around the request for tough choices they’d make to cut the federal budget after saying it had to be balanced like a household budget. McMorris Rodgers said she’d roll back spending to pre-Obama, pre-stimulus levels of 2008.
“Grandiose statements but no details,” countered Romeyn, who said he’d cut “waste in government.”
“Get our economy growing,” McMorris Rodgers countered.
“Let’s get people back to work,” Romeyn replied.
Getting people working in some Eastern Washington forests takes actions, not words or government programs, he added. “Get some folks out there with some chain saws and get to work.”
No, it takes discussions among the “warring factions” to open some areas to cutting, others to recreation and preserve others, McMorris Rodgers said, adding that that’s what she’s been doing with U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat.
Romeyn said he favored pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan right away and spending money in the United States that had been planned for roads and irrigation projects there. McMorris Rodgers said she supported President Barack Obama’s plan to increase troops, although she didn’t support a deadline to begin a reduction.
Asked about previous comments that the U.S. should impose tariffs on Chinese goods, Romeyn said he’d favor such charges on all energy-saving technology that could harm U.S. manufacturers of green products.
“I don’t think starting a trade war is the best way to get our economy going,” she replied.
Romeyn tried to knock McMorris Rodgers, who is part of the House GOP leadership, for voting party-line Republican: “She votes 97 percent of the time with her party.”
McMorris Rodgers said she works with Democrats when the need arises, such as with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., on Fairchild Air Force Base issues, and contended that Romeyn’s the one tied to his party: “My opponent’s supporting the policies of the last couple of years that have added to the deficit.”
Both decried negative advertising. McMorris Rodgers said she thought having debates on the issues was the best approach. Then why has she not appeared with him at a public event before that debate, countered Romeyn.
The debate almost didn’t occur. It was first canceled because McMorris Rodgers couldn’t fit it into her schedule, then when she freed up time, Romeyn initially said he couldn’t. They didn’t agree to debate until Monday.