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Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers tells mostly friendly crowd she opposes mandatory vaccines, masks in school at Spokane town hall

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers faced a mostly friendly crowd at a Spokane town hall Monday evening, earning applause for her positions opposing mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations and what she sees as censorship of conservative ideas on social media.

But the congresswoman also faced audience members still upset she didn’t do more to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election.

“The election also was really close, to be as close as it was,” McMorris Rodgers said, in response to a question about the political makeup of a House of Representatives investigation into the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6. Several crowd members responded, yelling that the contest was “stolen” despite no evidence of widespread fraud. President Joe Biden won the popular vote in November by more than 7 million votes, and the electoral college 306-232.

“What I wanted to say was we need to have trust and confidence in our government.”

She continued to speak, amid rumbling in the crowd.

“Would you have voted to certify the election?” one man asked, above the din.

“I did vote on that day, to certify the election,” she said, to some boos and others clapping.

The moment was one of few where the audience of about 200 people at the Spokane Convention Center appeared conflicted about the response of McMorris Rodgers, who routinely appears to answer questions of constituents during the August recess. Another of those moments during the hour, in which 13 questions were posed at random from the live audience, came after South Hill resident Matt Norris asked where the congresswoman stood on the necessity of carrying paperwork proving someone has received a COVID-19 vaccination.

“I don’t support a federal mandate for vaccines,” the congresswoman said, to applause.

Later, as she continued to talk about the shots, several in the crowd began calling the vaccines “an experiment” (the vaccines have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration following clinical trials).

“They are proving, every month that goes by, they are proving to be effective with the delta variant that is more prevalent, the vaccines are proving to be effective,” she continued, quieting some in the crowd. She later said she opposed the requirement of mask-wearing in classrooms to start the school year, again earning applause after saying the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not provided adequate reasoning for the guidance.

Norris said after the meeting he was satisfied with the congresswoman’s answer to his question.

“She said no. That’s a good thing,” Norris said.

He also said he agreed with the congresswoman’s support for state-level audits of the results of the 2020 election. The congresswoman said she believed such efforts should remain at the state level, saying “we all need to be concerned about federalizing elections.”

“I thought she answered the question pretty well. I believe in small government,” Norris said. “Arizona’s doing their thing. Georgia’s doing their thing. Pennsylvania’s doing their thing.”

McMorris Rodgers said after the town hall she wasn’t surprised members of the audience still felt passionate about the election and Jan. 6.

“It has certainly been in the news recently, because of the action Speaker Pelosi has taken with the Jan. 6 commission,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy revoked his nominees to the commission last month after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two of his selections for the panel believed to have been in close contact with President Donald Trump during the certification vote. Pelosi has nominated two Republicans critical of the president, Reps. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney, to the panel after McCarthy’s objections.

The disagreement in the room based on McMorris Rodgers’ explanation for her certification vote was not lost on South Hill resident Brett Billingsley, who asked the final question of the night of the congresswoman about her recent legislation directed at reforming social media regulations.

“I don’t think she was Republican enough for some of the people here,” Billingsley said.

He asked McMorris Rodgers if she’d sought a bipartisan backer for her legislation aimed at social media firms. McMorris Rodgers said she planned to, but acknowledged that “on Section 230, specifically, we’re not in a united place yet.” That was in reference to a provision in federal law that gives firms including Facebook and Twitter some legal protection from the content posted on their platforms. McMorris Rodgers has proposed amending that provision in light of what she sees as censorship of conservative voices on the largest outlets.

The congresswoman has additional town halls planned Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Northern Inn, 852 S. Clarke Ave. in Republic, and at 3 p.m. at the Stevens County Ambulance Training Center, 425 North Highway in Colville.