Republican U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, in the final debate before the November election, defended her eight years in Congress and argued that she has worked for bipartisanship in Congress.
“We need leadership. We need both parties, Republicans and Democrats, working together,” McMorris Rodgers said Friday morning at the debate at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park. “When you look at my record you’ll see one where I have reached across the aisle to get the job done.”
Her Democratic opponent, Rich Cowan, said McMorris Rodgers, as a ranking leader of the House Republican Party, is partially responsible for the inability of elected federal officials to make progress.
“Getting themselves re-elected and helping other career politicians with their elections is more important than solving this fiscal cliff,” said Cowan, the founder of Spokane film company North By Northwest Productions, echoing a major theme of one of his TV campaign ads. “Bond and market rating firms threaten to lower our credit rating because the federal government can’t work together.”
The breakfast event, sponsored by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s chamber of commerce, cost $55 a plate to attend for nonmembers, according to GSI’s website. The first debate between the two candidates aired Tuesday night on KSPS.
Cowan had pushed to have a debate in all 10 of the counties represented in the district; McMorris Rodgers agreed to two in Spokane.
Each candidate was given the opportunity to ask the other a question.
Cowan noted that McMorris Rodgers has criticized President Barack Obama for signing into law a health care proposal that cut $716 billion in spending from Medicare, even though she voted for a budget that included the same spending cut in a plan authored by current Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.
“How can you criticize somebody for doing something you voted for twice?” he asked.
McMorris Rodgers stressed that she opposed the cut in the Affordable Care Act because it was used to pay for new spending, while the cuts in the Ryan budget would have helped deal with deficits.
“The Ryan budget in the House is a budget that actually makes some tough decisions across the board to set priorities to start getting us living within our means,” she said.
McMorris Rodgers asked Cowan about a comment she said he made at an earlier candidates forum that candidates shouldn’t advocate for defense projects.
“I just wanted to ask what you meant by that – especially as it relates to Fairchild and what your role would be as a member of Congress with Fairchild,” she said.
Cowan said he felt his role would include advocating for Fairchild and working for its future viability.
“I’m a major, big-time supporter of Fairchild,” Cowan said. “We’ve got to do everything we can do to preserve and secure Fairchild. Absolutely, that would be a huge priority.”
Cowan, who has said he would serve no more than four terms, concluded the debate by promising not to accept a congressional pension until Congress passes a balanced budget. He also said he wouldn’t accept a pay increase until unemployment in Eastern Washington falls below 5 percent.
McMorris Rodgers’ final statement stressed her connections to the district.
“My priorities are here,” she said. “My priorities are those of Fairchild, of our forest, of our farms, of our Air Force men and women, our veterans.”