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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

McMorris Rodgers, Wilson in 5th District

What Congress should accomplish is stymied by political dysfunction – and this reality is illustrated in the Fifth District race. The nation needs fiscal sanity, entitlement and immigration reform and free trade. All four have become lightning rods, and congressional leadership has been unable to forge solutions.

Independent candidate Dave Wilson is making his second run, and his views on those issues align with ours. He says they can’t be accomplished without campaign finance reform. If elected, he hopes to form a coalition with other moderates to push for compromises.

To keep Social Security and Medicare solvent, he wants to see changes phased in slowly. He believes it will take a combination of spending cuts and tax increases to whittle the national debt. He says he’s lost support on the left over free trade, but he says it’s vital to the state and country. He supports the Senate immigration reform plan that offers a path to citizenship.

We agree on all of this, but we’re also aware of political reality. As is Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

The incumbent is in House leadership, but it’s been difficult trying to rein in a tea party caucus immune to compromise. If those 35 to 40 members circle the wagons, it’s difficult to advance any bill. This has pulled the party in the wrong direction on trade issues, such as the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, and immigration.

McMorris Rodgers needs to stand firmer on these issues, and steer Republican leadership away from unproductive attacks on Planned Parenthood and the overblown “scandal” of the day. In our interview, she expressed frustration with the fact that two-thirds of federal spending is automatic. Indeed, discretionary spending – the portion Congress votes on annually – has been cut, but debt continues to rise. She is pushing legislation that would call for more spending to be subject to periodic review. Good idea. She also wants a Balanced Budget Amendment, because she believes it would spark honest conversations on spending and taxes.

Democrat Joe Pakootas touts his record as chief executive officer of the Colville Confederated Tribe, and he has reason to be proud. But when it comes to thorny political issues, he doesn’t demonstrate independent thinking. Instead, it’s hands-off Social Security and Medicare. Impose a $15 federal minimum wage (never mind the differences among Seattle, Spokane and Spangle). Oppose trade pacts. It’s the traditional liberal litany that ignores the conservative makeup of the district.

Republican Tom Horne is also repeating his run from 2014, which was triggered by his anger over McMorris Rodgers’ failure to attack President Barack Obama in her national State of the Union response. He is for a more interventionist foreign policy and against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

We support Dave Wilson’s ideas, but we’re also realists. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is in a strong leadership position and can help the district on issues such as protecting Fairchild Air Force Base. We’d like to see both advance and engage in substantive debates.