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Protesters balk at lack of forum

McMorris Rodgers’ votes on Medicaid questioned

Walt Kloefkorn and others protest in front of the Davenport Hotel during a fundraiser Friday for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Christopher Anderson)
Walt Kloefkorn and others protest in front of the Davenport Hotel during a fundraiser Friday for Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. (Christopher Anderson)

While Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers made her swing through Spokane this week, meeting with business and agricultural groups, Democrats criticized her for not hosting a public forum to discuss a series of votes she cast that would change and cut Medicaid spending.

More than a dozen protesters waved placards Friday morning in front of the Davenport Hotel, where McMorris Rodgers also engaged in a bit of campaign fundraising, holding a $250-per-person private roundtable and a $125-a-plate breakfast.

“(McMorris Rodgers) needs to hold a town meeting and explain why she is voting against programs that help vulnerable people,” said Linda McHenry. “Her votes don’t match her rhetoric about being all about family.”

McMorris Rodgers said she normally holds “town hall” meetings during the August recess and envisions doing so again. On this trip to Spokane she is traveling with Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., who serves as chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee.

And yet, she said, her office is responsive to constituent concerns. At 9:30 a.m. today, for example, she is holding a “Coffee With Cathy” event at Brews Bros. coffee in downtown Spokane where she will meet with some people who requested face time.

The meeting at the coffee house, she said, will likely draw people of all political persuasions.

“I’m happy to do these,” she said. “People appreciate the opportunity.”

Together with Kingston, she met with a couple dozen farmers, agribusiness leaders and people involved in research at Washington State University.

Congress will attempt to pass a new farm bill next year and the two lawmakers wanted to hear about what’s working in the current bill and what has failed.

“Our message is that, for the most part, the farm bill as it stands right now is working,” said Washtucna wheat grower Brett Blankenship. “There are many reasons the ag sector is healthy and one of them is that we have a federal safety net … to ensure we provide enough food that’s cheap, safe and reliable.”

Farmers suspect that budget cutters will look to find savings in the farm bill.

Last year the bill cost taxpayers approximately $100 billion, said Kingston. Of that, he said, between $10 billion and $12 billion was spent supporting production agriculture.

Most of the money was spent on food stamps, subsidized school lunches, and the Women with Infants and Children program that helps families purchase food.

McMorris Rodgers and Kingston said they are interested in rooting out inefficiencies, overuse and fraud in such programs. They acknowledged that looking to such programs for savings will draw fire from advocates for the poor.

Democrats charge that McMorris Rodgers has ignored the plight of many poor people in the district.

“She has always, throughout her political life, represented the poorest corner of Washington state,” said Walt Kloefkorn, of Springdale, “and she hasn’t done much to change their status.”

McMorris Rodgers opposes the federal health reform legislation that passed last year. Recently she voted in favor of the House budget proposal put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would overhaul Medicaid by providing block grants to the states to administer the program. Critics say the proposal amounts to slashing the program while lowering tax rates for the wealthiest Americans.

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