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Opinion >  Editorial

Return McMorris Rodgers to the House of Representatives

In Congress, experience equals power. Cathy McMorris Rodgers has that experience. She’s been a powerful representative for Eastern Washington and deserves re-election to an eighth term.

The Republican incumbent faces a formidable opponent in Democrat Lisa Brown, who left her job as chancellor of Washington State University Spokane to seek the 5th Congressional District seat. The contest is being closely watched nationally, as it is the district’s most competitive race since McMorris Rodgers first won election in 2004.

That competition is good for Eastern Washington. Voters have a distinct choice between two good candidates with strong records of public service but different philosophies.

Brown has a stellar record of getting things done for the Spokane area. As Senate majority leader, she was instrumental in securing the new medical school at WSU Spokane and, as chancellor, oversaw the creation of that program. Her demonstrated leadership speaks volumes about her potential in Congress.

Yet the 5th District is a geographically and politically diverse region – a mix of urban, semi-urban and rural – and Brown’s progressive politics are less in tune with the overall district than those of McMorris Rodgers.

McMorris Rodgers is unabashedly pro-business and pro-agriculture. The Eastern Washington economy has benefitted from the tax cuts pushed by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump. Trade is an essential aspect of the regional economy, and McMorris Rodgers lauds Trump for confronting unfair trade practices by China.

McMorris Rodgers embraces the American Dream and sees herself as a product of that. The self-described “farm kid” believes in helping people who are in need but also in creating an environment in which people can prosper and provide for themselves. She supports Medicare and Social Security, despite accusations that she does not.

As far as leadership, McMorris Rodgers is the highest-ranking Republican woman in the U.S. House and the fourth-highest Republican leader. She chairs the House Republican Conference. Regardless of which party controls Congress, it would take years for a newcomer, even as skillful a politician as Brown, to achieve that level of influence.

Her influence counts not only in legislating but in helping constituents deal with federal agencies, an under-appreciated but critical part of a representative’s job.

McMorris Rodgers and her staff continually work with veterans trying to navigate the bureaucracy that is the Department of Veterans Affairs. That ground-level work informs her efforts to improve the VA, making the Spokane VA medical center a teaching hospital and a flagship part of a pilot program for an electronic filing system, an important step to modernizing health care for veterans.

She also secured funding for medical students in Eastern Washington, voted for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and, as an advocate for medical innovation, supported the 21st Century Cures Act.

However, as Republicans pointed out before the Affordable Care Act became law, Obamacare remains deeply flawed despite its good points. It is long past time for Congress to pass bipartisan improvements, many advocated by McMorris Rodgers.

Because of McMorris Rodgers’ political influence, top federal officials come to Eastern Washington to understand our challenges and assets firsthand. Fairchild Air Force Base hosts the Congressional Military Family Summit and VA Secretary Robert Wilkie on Oct. 17.

She believes that the Snake and Columbia river dams continue to benefit the region and she opposes environmental regulations that overreach. That includes her criticism of the federal standard on PCB discharges into waterways – a standard that is now being re-examined but that is 25 times more restrictive than the guideline agreed to by Washington state officials. We, along with many local and statewide businesses and organizations, believe the less-strictive standard is better policy. Meeting EPA’s standard would cost municipal sewer users hundreds of millions of dollars and could eliminate recycling at Inland Empire Paper, a subsidiary of Cowles Co., which also owns this newspaper.

McMorris Rodgers also is a champion for improved forest management, a Western issue often misunderstood by East Coast politicians.

In these midterm congressional elections, the specter of national politics hangs over the Brown-McMorris Rodgers race. But regardless of which political party gains or loses seats in Congress on Nov. 6, what should matter to voters here is which candidate would best represent Eastern Washington.

That person is Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

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