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Former McMorris Rodgers aide says scandal investigation expanding

A former aide to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers contends an ethics investigation into her campaign for a House leadership post is ramping up with allegations that she retaliated against him. An attorney for the Spokane Republican calls the comments “more frivolous allegations and information.”

Todd Winer, former press secretary and advisor to McMorris Rodgers, said in an e-mail today he was “breaking his silence” about what he calls the congresswoman's scandal. 

Winer cooperated with the Office of Congressional Ethics investigation of whether McMorris Rodgers and her staff misused resources in her campaign for  re-election in 2012 and for the office of Republican Conference chairman. (Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated Winer filed the complaint.) After reviewing the allegations, the office referred the matter to the House Ethics Committee, which last March said it would continue to review it but did not set up a special subcommittee to investigate.

Although it was clear when the committee released ethics office report in March that Winer cooperated, he had not addressed it publicly before today, and still refuses to comment about it other than by e-mail. “It wouldn't have been appropriate for me to talk while I was still working in Congress,” he wrote in response to a question about the timing. “Now that I've left Congress it's important for me to set the record straight.”

Until recently, Winer was the press secretary for Rep. Raul Labrador, the Republican whose district includes North Idaho and shares much of its western border with McMorris Rodgers' Eastern Washington district. 

In his e-mail, he said the Ethics Committee staff continues to investigate the charges, and he has met with them as recently as last week. He contends the committee's investigation is expanding to include McMorris Rodgers' “efforts to intimidate and punish me for my cooperation with the (Office of Congressional Ethics) and the committee.”

Elliot Berke, an attorney for McMorris Rodgers who filed a 49-page rebuttal to the office report, dismissed Winer's allegations as more the same.

“We are sorry to see more frivolous allegations and information from the same source,” Berke wrote in an e-mail. “From the beginning the Congresswoman and her staff have fully cooperated with the Ethics Committee and will continue to do so should it have more questions.”

The committee does not comment on ongoing investigations, its attorney Thomas Rust said. Nothing has changed from the committee's statement on March 24 that said the the chairman and top Democrat on the panel were extending the review, he said.

That was a step between impaneling a special subcommittee to investigate it and dismissing the complaint, causing some speculation the congresswoman was unlikely to face charges or sanctions.  But a check of the committee's website shows instances in which extended reviews have led to establishing an investigative subcommittee for a complaint.

There is no time limit for an extended review, and investigations can be carried over from one session to the next. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, the committee handled 58 complaints against House members.

Another look at some statements from McMorris Rodgers’ town hall

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers offered remarks Monday night at an annual town hall covering topics ranging from federal spending to climate policy. Here's a closer look at some of those statements, and the information that supports or rebuts them:

Statement: “Last January I had the honor of giving the Republican address after the president’s State of the Union … If you listened, I didn’t mention President Obama once. The reason was because I think, for so many  me included week after week hearing the division between Republicans and Democrats just attacking each other isn’t getting us where we want to be, and it creates a lot of frustration.”

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers did not mention Barack Obama by name in her 10-minute long rebuttal his State of the Union address in January. However, she did mention the office nine times, though whether many of those could be counted as attacks on his policies is debatable. A sampling of her mentions:

“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.”

“The President talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality… And with this Administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day.”

“Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the President’s policies are making people’s lives harder.”

Watch the entirety of her address below (video provided by The New York Times):

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers challenges Pakootas to 3 debates

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers challenged Democratic opponent Joe Pakootas today to three debates this fall, including two in Spokane. Pakootas said he planned to counter with a proposal to do at least two more in other areas around the large congressional district. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

 

McMorris Rodgers mailer used photo without permission, friend says

A week after Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers sent a taxpayer-funded mailer with the wrong date for a public town hall meeting, residents in Liberty Lake are crying foul over another postcard they say used a woman's picture without her family's permission.

Tom Brattebo sent the following letter to the editor to the newspaper this weekend:

I'll add another view to the numerous letters regarding Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' recently sent (at taxpayer expense) “Senior Update.” The older woman in the picture was a friend of mine for over 35 years. She passed away in January of 2013. The picture was taken a few months prior. The lady was a retired school teacher and principal. She never wanted for medical care through her state retirement and Medicare programs. She did much to assist the less fortunate.

Permission was not solicited by the congresswoman's office for use of this photo. They had no knowledge that she had died.

And, I am married to a “Bette from Spokane.”

Brattebo said the woman, pictured below with the congresswoman, is 91-year-old Maxine Davidson. Brattebo and his wife, Bette (not that Bette), befriended Davidson, a longtime teacher and principal for Spokane Public Schools. A memorial scholarship bears her name at Eastern Washington University, according to an obituary published in the Spokesman-Review.

Maxine Davidson shakes Cathy McMorris Rodgers' hand in a picture on a mailer sent out this month.
Photo courtesy of Tom Brattebo.

Brattebo's wife retained power of attorney for the retired school teacher, he said. She died in January 2013, a few weeks after the photo was taken with the congresswoman used in the mailer. The couple was not contacted by McMorris Rodgers' office before the mailer was sent. They found out about its use when it arrived in their mailbox last week, Tom Brattebo said.

“It was upsetting,” Brattebo said. “She's been gone for a year and a half.”

Davidson enjoyed the photo and kept a print of it in her room at the nursing facility where she lived, Brattebo said. But based on his perception of Davidson's politics, it's unlikely the Brattebos would have OK'd the picture's use in the material sent by the GOP congresswoman, Tom Brattebo said. 

The Brattebos contacted McMorris Rodgers' office, who apologized for the image's use. In a statement, a spokeswoman said the photo was published due to a breakdown in office policy.

There was a breakdown in our standard approval process at the staff level for use of this particular photo. Going forward the office will work to make certain the approval process is enforced which means in order to use a photo appropriate permissions of those featured will be obtained.

-Statement from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' office

McMorris Rodgers is scheduled to appear at an hour-long town hall meeting tonight at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. The event is scheduled to run from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. She faces challenger Joe Pakootas, a Democrat, in the November general election for the 5th Congressional District seat in the U.S. Congress.

Town hall date misprinted on McMorris Rodgers mailer

Staff for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said they realized too late their error in the published date for an upcoming Spokane town hall event on a mailer that hit the district last week.

A Cathy McMorris Rodgers mailer lists the wrong date for a town hall meeting

The glossy mailer lists the date of the event as Thursday, Aug. 18, from 5 to 6 p.m. at the Lincoln Center in north Spokane. But the 18th is a Monday, not a Thursday.

A spokeswoman confirmed the event will take place Monday, Aug. 18. The error was discovered after the mailers had been sent to the printer, the spokeswoman said, and a newsletter with the correct date was sent out electronically to digital subscribers of the congresswoman's emails.

McMorris Rodgers is expected to speak for an hour at the event Monday, which follows a strong showing in the four-person primary for the seat she's held since 2005. She last visited Spokane for a town hall a year ago, where many attendees wore their hearts on their sleeves.

WA Elex Congress: McMorris Rodger v. Pakootas; Didier v. Newhouse

Congress may be unpopular, but in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District, five-term incumbent Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers was not with voters casting ballots in Tuesday’s primary.

McMorris Rodgers, a member of the GOP leadership in the House, finished the evening with more than half the votes cast in the 10-county district. She’ll face Democrat Joe Pakootas, the chief executive officer of the Colville Tribe’s business operations, in the general election and said she was encouraged by the strong showing in the four-way primary.

“To me, it indicates the trust and confidence people have in my representation,” she said. “I’m someone a lot of people can relate to.”

The job ratings for Congress overall have been low for months, but people often have a better opinion of their own representative. But earlier Tuesday, a Washington Post-ABC News poll said Americans are more dissatisfied with their member of Congress than ever. The survey said 51 percent reported they either strongly disapprove or somewhat disapprove of the way their representative is  handling his or her job.

McMorris Rodgers had about 51.7 percent of the votes after county elections offices shut down for the night. Most will count more ballots on Wednesday, and results will be official on Aug. 19.

Pakootas, who finished the night with about 29 percent of the vote, acknowledged he has a tough challenge ahead but declared himself excited and energized by surviving the primary.

“I think it will be easier to run head-to-head” where voters can compare their records on job creation and economic views, he said.

One challenge, he added, will be to get more Democrats to the polls. Outside of Spokane, many county and legislative offices are held by Republicans who have no or only token Democratic opposition.

Two other challengers were eliminated. Independent Dave Wilson, who built and then sold a computer training school, tried to appeal to the disaffected voters unhappy with both parties in general and Congress in particular. Republican Tom Horne, a volunteer firefighter and retired engineer, ran to the right of McMorris Rodgers, criticizing Republican leadership in the House and calling for more challenges to President Obama.

In Central Washington’s wild primary for an open seat, a pair of Republicans will compete in the state’s first all-GOP congressional general election race. Eltopia farmer and former NFL player Clint Didier, a Tea Party favorite, has a commanding lead in the 12-person field with about 30 percent of the vote. He was almost 3,000 votes ahead of former state Ag Director Dan Newhouse, of Yakima, a mainstream Republican. With all counties reporting election night tallies, Newhouse has twice the votes of the Estakio Beltran, a Democrat in third place who was slightly ahead of Janea Holmquist, a Moses Lake legislator who gave up her Senate seat to run for Congress.

The race drew an even dozen candidates – eight Republicans, two Democrats and two independents. The Republicans all ran as conservatives who believe in smaller government, lower taxes and gun rights. In resumes and approaches to government, they represented a wide spectrum from mainstream to Tea Party.

Under the state’s top two primary system, the candidates with the most and second-most votes advance to the general election regardless of party.

Bipartisan Ex-Im Bank bill introduced in Senate

Washington's two senators helped sponsor a bipartisan bill Thursday that would keep a major export program vital to the state from going out of business.

But Congress, which starts a five-week recess this weekend, will have to use parliamentary shortcuts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank for five years before its current charter runs out on Sept. 30. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Chud Wendle joins McMorris Rodgers’ local staff

Spokane-native Chud Wendle has joined Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' local office as district director, the congresswoman announced this week.

“I was intrigued from day one, by the challenges and opportunities this job would present,” Wendle said.

A member of the Wendle family that owns several area car dealerships, Chud Wendle was named McMorris Rodgers' district director and will be working out of her office in downtown Spokane. Wendle has spent the past six years in Pullman, where he worked in real estate and ran a frozen yogurt and cupcake shop with his wife, Cindy.

Wendle said his job description includes being the “eyes and ears” for the congresswoman in the district. He will handle legislative matters, though he will be available to assist with McMorris Rodgers' re-election campaign. She faces challengers

Tom HorneJoe Pakootas and Dave Wilson in the primary concluding next week. (Editor's note: Republican challenger Tom Horne was incorrectly left off the list of challengers in an earlier version of this post.)

The congresswoman approached Wendle to direct her district office, he said, about the time his wife took a new position in Spokane. They return to the Lilac City with their three sons: Ben, Nick and Jack. Wendle said his family is excited to return to Spokane, where he was born and raised.

In a statement announcing the hire, McMorris Rodgers praised Wendle's ties to the community and nonprofit work.

“Chud brings over a decade of experience and involvement in Eastern Washington, having worked with numerous local non-profit organizations, including Goodwill Industries and United Way of both Pullman and Spokane,” McMorris Rodgers said in the statement.

Wendle said he was pleased to be working for McMorris Rodgers.

“I’ve always respected the work that the congresswoman does,” he said

McMorris Rodgers won’t debate before primary

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said she wants to debate her opponent in this year's election — but only after the primary.

The five-term incumbent Republican responded to a challenge from independent Dave Wilson, who wanted to debate five times before the primary and five times after it. She has a less ambitious counter.

“I was planning on writing to discuss debates as soon as we are certain who the candidates will be in November,” she said in a letter to Wilson that welcomed him to the campaign. “I am committed to doing all I can for Eastern Washington during July's busy congressional schedule but am eager for debates in the fall.”

Wilson said he was disappointed at her refusal to debate before the primary, and found her response “a little trite.” But he added: “I was surprised I heard anything at all from her.”

McMorris Rodgers has never failed to debate an opponent in a congressional campaign, although she has had a few dust-ups over scheduling in recent elections . . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers won’t seek Cantor’s spot

The day after the House of Representative’s No. 2 Republican fell to a primary challenger, Eastern Washington congressional candidates were hoping for a boost to knock off the No. 4 Republican.

Meanwhile, that No. 4 – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers – said she wouldn’t be trying to leapfrog to No. 3.

The congresswoman was mentioned early Wednesday by several political analysts as a possible replacement for Eric Cantor, who will step down next month as majority leader. Cantor said he’d support Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, who is next in line on the leadership ladder, to move up.

McMorris Rodgers’ staff released a statement that she would not seek either the majority leader or whip position but would remain in the No. 4 leadership spot. She did not return a request for comment. Jim Camden, SR

Thoughts?

McMorris Rodgers challengers find hope in Cantor loss

The day after the House’s No. 2 Republican fell to a primary challenger, Eastern Washington congressional candidates were hoping Wednesday for a boost to knock off the No. 4 Republican.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers faces three challengers in the August primary – one Republican, one Democrat and one independent. Each thought the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor validated some aspects of their races, which appear to be long-shot bids against the five-term incumbent.

All three will run low-budget, populist races against the House Republican Conference chairwoman, hoping to finish at least second in the primary and then defeat her in a head-to-head contest in November. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Nethercutt: Cantor loss is warning to GOP leaders

Former Rep. George Nethercutt, who pulled off his own dramatic unlikely Congressional victory 20 years ago unseating Speaker of the House Tom Foley, of Spokane, said Tuesday he could see parallels between his experience and that of David Brat.

“It’s a message, as I look at it, to all members of the House: You’ve got to pay attention to what people at home are saying,” Nethercutt said.

Calling Majority Leader Eric Cantor a “rising young star” and “a bright young guy,” Nethercutt said it’s possible the Virginia Republican got too wrapped up in his leadership role and lost sight of his constituents’ wishes. He said he doesn’t want to see the same happen to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who currently heads the House Republican Caucus and is a fixture at press events with Cantor and other GOP leaders. Her office did not respond to a request for comment on Cantor’s loss late Tuesday.

McMorris Rodgers, chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, is the fourth-highest ranking member of Congress, behind the Speaker of the House, Majority Leader and Majority Whip.

“Anybody from Eastern Washington needs to pay attention to the voters at home,” Nethercutt said.

McMorris Rodgers with Seahawks at White House

Normally, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers wouldn't be all smiles at a gathering headed by President Obama at the White House — if she'd be there at all.

Not so today, where she stopped by for Obama's salute to the Super Bowl champs and tweeted out a photo, proving perhaps that winners draw a bipartisan crowd.

McMorris Rodgers draws 3rd opponent as filing week closes

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers drew a third challenger and several other political races filled out Friday on the last day for candidates to file for office in Washington.

Tom Horne of Nine Mile Falls filed as a Republican against McMorris Rodgers, who is seeking a fifth term in Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District. Horne hasn’t filed with the Federal Elections Commission or made a formal campaign announcement, and couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on his plans to unseat a fellow Republican. An internet search indicates he’s a firefighter and the inventor of the “Jake knife” a tool used by firefighters.

The race already includes independent Dave Wilson, a Spokane business consultant, and Democrat Joe Pakootas, chief executive officer of the corporation that manages Colville Tribal businesses.

Other last-day filings included former Spokane Valley Mayor Diana Wilhite, who made it a three-way race for a 4th Legislative District House seat, which also includes appointed incumbent Leonard Christian and Valley school teacher Bob McCaslin Jr. Rep. Matt Shea filed for re-election to the other seat and drew a challenge from Josh Arritola, who runs a management consulting firm. All five 4th District candidates are Republicans.

Randy Glenn II, an information technology manager filed as a Libertarian in the 3rd Legislative District House race that already included incumbent Democrat Marcus Riccelli and Republican Tim Benn, a day care center co-owner. Glenn is one of three Libertarians in local legislative races, along with Paul Delaney of Spokane, who is running for the other 3rd District seat against Democratic Rep. Timm Ormsby, and James Apker of Mead, who is challenging 7th District Republican Rep. Shelly Short.

Donald Dover, a retired manager of distance learning programs for Washington State University filed against Republican Rep. Kevin Parker in the 6th District and Ronnie Rae, a Loon Lake attorney, filed with a “Centralist Party” preference against Republican Rep. Joel Kretz in the 7th District. Rae said that’s not a real party but a description of his political philosophy.

For a list of candidates who have filed for offices that would be on Spokane area ballots, click here to go inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers makes 2014 bid official

Cathy McMorris Rodgers made her re-election campaign official Monday, announcing she’ll seek a sixth term in the House of Representatives.

The announcement is primarily a formality because the Spokane-area Republican has been raising money almost since the 2012 election ended and already has collected some $1.3 million for the upcoming campaign.

Rival Democrats have recruited Joe Pakootas, chief executive officer of the Colville Tribal business operation to run against her. David Wilson, former head of Interface College, is running as an independent.

In her announcement. . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, click here to continue inside the blog.

Sunday Spin: What the McMorris Rodgers report tells us about campaigns

Cathy McMorris Rodgers may or may not get the House of Representatives equivalent of 20 lashes with a wet noodle for improperly mixing campaign business with congressional business.

But documents released from an official investigation into a disgruntled former employee’s complaint makes one thing clear: By limiting debates with opponents in 2010 and 2012 campaigns, McMorris Rodgers wasn’t showing a lack of political courage; she was being a good steward of the public treasury.

They also show that anyone thinking a congressional debate will produce earth-shattering revelations probably thinks reality TV is reality. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Today’s fun video: Colbert jabs McMorris Rodgers over ‘Bette in Spokane’

 

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made the national “fake news” last night for her use of Bette in Spokane as an example of Obamacare problems.

Stephen Colbert referred to her as “Republican den mother” and aired a snippet of her response to Obama's State of the Union address in which she decries Bette's plight… followed by the explanation from The Spokesman-Review that Bette wouldn't use “that Obamacare website.”

“There's another flaw with Obamacare,” Colbert reported in mock seriousness. “You have to go on it to use it. That's how they get you.”

It's a pretty funny bit… and we're not just saying that because he mentioned the newspaper's coverage. On the other hand, it didn't hurt.

For more on Bette, check out here , here and here.

 

Pakootas hopes McMorris Rodgers’ rank works against her

As a member of Congress gains stature in Washington, D.C., opponents often have more trouble defeating them in elections back home. Eastern Washington Democrats are hoping the reverse is true this year as Joe Pakootas prepares to run against Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

He’s counting on a boost from the public’s general low opinion of Congress, its partisan wrangling and its short time in session will work against the 10-year incumbent who is part of Republican leadership. . .

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Insurgent Past Dogs Labrador

During the weekend, the story about an alleged ethics violation became less about the accused - Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash. - and more about her accuser. That would be Todd Winer, who according to sources cited by the Spokesman-Review filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics. The OCE has forwarded the file on to the House Ethics Committee, which may hold hearings. Winer used to be McMorris Rodgers' press secretary. But that isn't the juiciest part.After departing the Washington Republican's office, he took up a similar post with Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho. In fact, he'd been working for Labrador for about a month when OCE got the complaint/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Thoughts?

Sunday Spin: Representation v. judgment

OLYMPIA – For about 30 minutes last week, the Senate rang with debate on an issue at the very heart of our democratic republic.

The resolution at hand was a constitutional amendment requiring the Legislature to come up with a two-thirds supermajority to enact tax increases. But the underlying issue, and much of the argument, involved something more basic:

When we elect someone to Congress, the Legislature or the City Council, do we send them there to represent us or do we send them to exercise their best judgment? . . . 

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

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McMorris Rodgers a VP contender (and other speech analysis)

Here's what's being said about Eastern Washington's Congresswoman, Cathy McMorris Rodgers after (and a little before) her speech responding to President Barack Obama's State of the Union:

The Washington Post says she's a vice presidential contender in 2016:

“Talk of a possible veep slot in 2016 is in the air, as is the possibility that McMorris Rodgers will rise through the House Republican ranks, should Boehner decided to step down in the coming years. Even though she has been part of the brass for a while, it’s as if Republicans are suddenly waking up to the focus-group charm of CMR.”

The Daily Kos calls baloney on McMorris Rodgers claims about “Bette in Spokane”:

Sorry, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, your story doesn't pass the smell test, and certainly doesn't withstand any level of detailed analysis.

McClatchy puts the honor of giving the opposition speech in perspective:

On Tuesday, she’ll become the 12th woman to give the opposition speech and only the second chosen from the House Republican ranks, joining the late Rep. Jennifer Dunn, also of Washington state, who got the nod in 1999. Two Washington state Democrats took the assignment, too: Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1970 and then-Gov. Gary Locke in 2003.


Read more here: http://www.kansascity.com/2014/01/27/4780351/republicans-pitch-washington-state.html#storylink=cpy

McMorris Rodgers rebuttal set

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will rush from the House Floor to a nearby studio to give the rebuttal to tonight's State of the Union address by President Obama. 

But she won't have to listen carefully to his speech, take notes and write something new on the fly. Like Obama's speech, McMorris Rodgers is already prepared. House Republicans already released excerpts, which kind of makes it a “prebuttal.” 

Congressional Democrats, by the way, have their rebuttal to McMorris Rodgers' rebuttal set, too, and have already e-mailed it out. Bottom line to their message: she might be a fresh face for the GOP, but she represents all the same old policies.

The released excerpts are inside the blog.

 

Wash. Post briefs readers on McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers' gig as the GOP responder to the State of the Union garnered a bit of attention from a Washington Post blog, which listed five things its readers probably didn't know about her.

Most Spokesman-Review readers, many of whom are her constituents, probably knew all or most of them. (Spin Control admits it didn't know, or maybe had forgotten, No. 5.)

Here's a couple other factoids connected to the response, gleaned from The American Presidency Project.

The first member of Congress from Washington to give a response was Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson in 1970. Back then, the opposition party picked a group of folks to speak, and he was one of seven.

The first member of Congress from Eastern Washington's 5th District was Tom Foley, when he was speaker, gave the Democratic response to President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and 1992.

The first woman from Washington to give a response was Rep. Jennifer Dunn of Bellevue, who gave the Republican response to President Bill Clinton in 1999.

The last person from Washington to give a response was Gov. Gary Locke, who gave the Democratic response to President George W. Bush in 2003.

The tradition of giving a televised opposition response dates to 1966, when Sen. Everett Dirksen and then-Rep. Gerald Ford gave the GOP response to President Lyndon Johnson. They did it for two years, but in 1968, Republicans put 16 people in front of the camera, including Rep. Charlotte Reid of Illinois, the first woman to take part in the nearly annual ritual, and an up and coming congressman from Texas, George H.W. Bush.

Nearly annual because some years, there's was no response as one party's president delivered the message before leaving office and the other party's president was inaugurated shortly after. In 1981, President Carter delivered a written message in January as he was leaving office and Democrats didn't offer a formal to a speech President Reagan made in February.

Sometimes it's a single person, other times it's a big lineup, although the 16 Republicans in 1968 was the largest response team.

Sometimes it's the opposition party's ranking member in one or both chambers of Congress. Other times it's up and coming politicians who later run for president. The first governor to be part of the response, in 1985, was a guy from Arkansas named Clinton.

McMorris Rodgers' selection surprised a few political “experts.” Earlier this week, the Politico website had a list of 10 possible Republican responders, with the pros and cons of each of these “usual suspects” following Obama. The Eastern Washington Republican was not on it. 

Spokane Valley City Council takes Tuesday off

Now there's no excuse to miss the State of the Union address, nor the potentially Eastern Washington-centric GOP response.

The Spokane Valley City Council has cancelled its Tuesday evening (Jan. 28) meeting, which otherwise would have been getting under way about the same time President Barack Obama is set to begin addressing the nation.

Following the State of the Union address, the nationally televised Republican response will be given by U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane.

Both addresses are set to be carried by all major TV networks. The State of the Union is set to begin at 6 p.m. Pacific Time.

The Spokane Valley City Council is scheduled to next meet on Feb. 4.

Midterm grades for Inland Northwest lawmakers

We're halfway through the 113th Congress, and legislative watchdog GovTrack.us has handed down its marks for lawmakers based on multiple indicators of legislative success.

Inland Northwest legislators had their fingers in several pieces of sweeping, high-profile federal legislation enacted in 2013, including an update to the Violence Against Women Act cosponsored by Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and a bipartisan budget resolution with Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., as its Democratic steward. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers also earned the rare distinction of a unanimous House of Representatives vote in favor of her bill easing licensing restrictions for dams with limited power capacities.

GovTrack, an independent bill-tracking service launched in 2004, ranked lawmakers across several categories, including number of roll call votes missed, number of bills sponsored and how many of the 20 bills the service identified as enhancing government transparency the lawmaker voted for. The rankings are comprehensive, but here are some highlights for those representing the Inland Northwest:

  • McMorris Rodgers and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, are the only two Inland Northwest lawmakers who introduced bills that became law. In addition to McMorris Rodgers' dam bill, Hastings introduced legislation establishing a national helium fund for proceeds of the gas' production on federal lands. The bill passed both chambers by wide margins.
  • McMorris Rodgers, who gave birth to a baby girl in November, has missed the greatest percentage of votes in the 113th Congress among Inland Northwest delegates, failing to record a preference in 7.5% of votes tallied so far. In the Senate, which votes far less frequently, Cantwell has missed 0.3% of roll calls, the lowest share among area lawmakers.
  • Among those lawmakers tracked by GovTrack, Cantwell has the highest share of bills she's cosponsored joined by members of the competing party. More than half - or 53.3% - of Cantwell's bills have been joined by a GOP cosponsor. Cantwell's colleague in the Senate, Patty Murray, was joined by a GOP lawmaker as a cosponsor on 29% of her bills, slightly lower than the percentage of bills proposed by McMorris Rodgers (29.4%) and Hastings (35%) joined by Democrats. Unlisted in the figures provided by GovTrack were Crapo, Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Eagle).
      

Congress is mulling a number of major legislative initiatives in the coming months as lawmakers prep for another election cycle. On tap are major bills addressing unemployment benefits, immigration reform and an extension of agriculture legislation.

In praise of compromise and civility

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Tom Foley.

WASHINGTON – In a service that contrasted the state of today’s Congress with the House Tom Foley left nearly two decades ago, past and current leaders extolled the former Spokane speaker’s ability to see another person’s point of view, compromise and get things done.

Republicans as well as Democrats praised the late congressman and ambassador, repeating stories he shared or advice he gave about honoring public service. And one leader who acknowledged he didn’t know Foley personally but admired his reputation said it was time to emulate him.

“Now, more than ever, America needs public servants who are willing to place problem-solving ahead of politics,” President Barack Obama said.

To read the rest of this item, or to comment, continue inside the blog.

Ending the shutdown: How they voted

Washington state has one distinction in yesterday's vote to end the partial government shutdown and extend the federal debt limit: It is the largest state in which the entire delegation voted yes.

Across the border in Idaho, the delegation was split, 3-1, on the no side.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Eastern Washington was one of the point-persons for the House Republican leadership in defending its tactics on the shutdown, appearing at press conferences and on 24-hour cable news programs. Like many other GOP leaders, she voted to end it Wednesday night, contending “House Republicans have done everything possible to protect the American people from the arbitrary regulations and unnecessary costs of the President's health care law… We did not accomplish everything we hoped. But in the end, the Senate agreed to come to the table and start to talk.”

She said House Republicans are united and will work on fixing “an out-of-control government.”

As a breakdown of the vote in the Washington Post shows, however, they were pretty sharply divided on the vote to end the shutdown. Americans for Limited Government, a group opposed to the Affordable Care Act, is also blasting House Republicans who voted to end the shutdown, saying they “now own Obamacare just as much as if they voted to adopt it in the first place.”

McMorris Rodgers digs at Obamacare, strikes hopeful tone following shutdown vote

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, joined 86 of her GOP colleagues in the House of Representatives on Wednesday night voting to end a partial government shutdown that lasted 16 days.

In a statement following the vote, the congresswoman and chair of the House Republican Conference continued attacks on the Affordable Care Act, the nation's health care overhaul that launched its online marketplaces the same day the federal government shuttered most of its doors.

“House Republicans have done everything possible to protect the American people from the arbitrary regulations and unnecessary costs of the President’s health care law,” McMorris Rodgers said in her prepared remarks.

In the early days of the shutdown, House Republicans were calling for a year delay of the requirement for individuals to sign up for the exchanges after President Barack Obama said employers would be granted such a reprieve while the kinks were worked out in the marketplaces. That demand was one of many that Republicans - facing growing opposition among the American people, according to polls cited in a Slate report - were forced to drop as the shutdown dragged on.

“We did not accomplish everything we hoped,” McMorris Rodgers said in her statement. She continued, however, with a tone of hope that some of the concessions sought by Republicans on spending might yet be attained. 

“In the end, the Senate agreed to come to the table and start to talk,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Those talks will take the form of a budget conference - requested multiple times throughout the summer by Senate Budget Committee chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. - that must reconcile by Dec. 13 massive differences between budget resolutions passed by each chamber earlier this year. That timeframe was included in the bill passed Wednesday night.

To read McMorris Rodgers' entire statement, click here to go inside the blog.

McMorris Rodgers part of negotiating team on shutdown

Time Magazine is reporting Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, has been selected by House Speaker John Boehner to negotiate Thursday with President Barack Obama on the partial federal government shutdown.

Obama originally invited all members of the House of Representatives to 1600 W. Pennsylvania Ave. to discuss funding the federal government. Boehner elected to send 18 representatives, including members of House leadership and committee chairs, instead.

A spokeswoman for McMorris Rodgers confirmed on Wednesday afternoon her planned attendance at the meeting.

The full Time listing of attendees:

Boehner (Ohio)
Rep. Eric Cantor (Virginia) 
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (California)
McMorris Rodgers (Washington)
Rep. Greg Walden (Oregon)
Rep. James Lankford (Oklahoma)
Rep. Lynn Jenkins (Kansas)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (North Carolina)
Rep. Steve Southerland (Florida)
Rep. Ann Wagner (Missouri)
Rep. Peter Roskam (Illinois)
Rep. Pete Sessions (Texas)
Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisconsin)
Rep. Dave Camp (Michigan)
Rep. Fred Upton (Michigan)
Rep. Hal Rogers (Kentucky)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (Texas)
Rep. Buck McKeon (California)

House Democrats are meeting with Obama today. Boehner said Tuesday a phone call with the president yielded “a crack” in the frigid impasse that has kept portions of the federal government on shutdown since Oct. 1, but it wasn't enough to stoke his optimism.

A bloc against Obamacare

One reason the shutdown remains so intractable is a core of House Republicans who signalled in August they wanted to eliminate the federal health care reforms.

In a letter to Speaker John Boehner, 80 House Republicans said they supported using the “power of the purse” to end the law. It didn't get much attention at the time, but in the last week, as the shutdown loomed and then occured, national political commentators have pointed to the letter, and its author Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, as a key to they deadlock.

Several readers have asked if Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers or  any of Washington's GOP House members signed onto the letter.They did not. But Rep. Raul Labrador of Idaho did.

For a map of the districts of those who signed on to the letter, click here.