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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

McMorris Rodgers, at Spokane town hall, decries ‘unilateral, unconstitutional action’ by Biden administration, questions ‘unprecedented’ FBI raid on Trump property

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, answers constituents’ questions at a town hall meeting this year at the Spokane Convention Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVI)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers defended her recent votes in Congress on issues of drug pricing, benefits for veterans and contraception access in a Spokane town hall Wednesday, while questioning the “unprecedented” decision by the Justice Department to search the property of former President Donald Trump.

The congresswoman also publicly distanced herself from allegations Trump only lost a second presidential term because of fraud, while still maintaining her belief that there were “irregularities” in the election.

Before that, McMorris Rodgers, who is seeking her 10th term in the nation’s capitol in the fall against Democrat Natasha Hill, targeted the Joe Biden administration for what she said were actions that would further the effects of inflation. She also accused Democrats of “fear-mongering” when it came to what Republicans will do following the Supreme Court’s decision to eliminate the federal right to an abortion.

“What I have been opposing is what I believe is unilateral action, unconstitutional action by the president of the United States,” McMorris Rodgers said.

In recent weeks, the congresswoman – who has been re-elected with general election shares of the vote of at least 54% since her first election in 2004 – has been a vocal leader of a House GOP effort to defeat a bill backed by Democrats to ensure access to contraception, calling it a “Trojan horse for more abortions.” She’s also criticized the Biden administration’s plan to cancel some student loan debts of up to $10,000 and $20,000 for Pell grant recipients, calling the plans unfair to those who have already paid back their loans and expressing concern about the action’s effect on inflation.

“You think about what signal that sends to hardworking Americans, those that haven’t gone to college that will be further burdened by that,” McMorris Rodgers said of the action.

McMorris Rodgers was asked directly about those issues and more Wednesday night in Spokane from a crowd of about 60 people, during an hourlong town hall at the Spokane Convention Center in which she took a little more than a dozen questions. As she spoke, attendees mostly held up green or red cards expressing their reaction to her comments, with attendees split down the middle throughout the evening.

The congresswoman was asked about her vote against a bill that extended benefits to military veterans exposed to toxic burn pits during U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. McMorris Rodgers called it a “very difficult vote,” but said she opposed the legislation because of the way it funded the Veteran Affairs Administration, reducing Congress’ oversight of the way the agency spent its money.

It “would mean there would be even less accountability by Congress, less oversight of the VA, at the very time that I am concerned about a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability,” she said, referencing the controversy surrounding the records system at the Mann-Grandstaff VA Medical Center in Spokane and repeating the argument made by Senate Republicans that opposed the measure. That opposition drew the ire of many veterans groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

McMorris Rodgers was asked about her initial support for efforts to challenge the results of the 2020 presidential election, and about the recent FBI search of Trump’s property in Florida, during which investigators were looking for evidence of classified documents taken by Trump and stored without property security.

“I don’t believe ‘the Big Lie,’ as such,” McMorris Rodgers said, referring to the belief that continues to be fueled by Trump and his supporters, without evidence, that the election was stolen from him. “But there were significant irregularities in the election.”

Asked after the town hall to clarify what she meant by opposition to “the Big Lie,” the congresswoman said she didn’t believe the election “was stolen.”

“We need to take action to secure the integrity of our elections,” she said.

The answer to that question drew the largest rebuke from members of the audience, along with her calling the search of Mar-a-Lago “unprecedented” while also saying, “we all have concerns about weaponizing the FBI to go after somebody for political beliefs or a political position.”

One was escorted out of the room after shouting that the congresswoman “didn’t believe in the rule of law.”

One of the final questions of the evening was about abortion and contraception, with McMorris Rodgers defending her vote against the bill in the House of Representatives in July that would have guaranteed access to contraception. McMorris Rodgers said the bill’s definition of contraception was too vague, and could include abortions, though the bill’s only mention of an abortion is in reference to states that have themselves defined abortion in such a way as to include contraception, and thus ban it, including emergency measures.

When asked specifically about abortion in cases of rape, the congresswoman said she preferred providing other options.

“I don’t want an abortion to be the only option a woman feels like she has in that situation,” the congresswoman said. “We need to be providing support to moms and children at every stage of life.”

Wednesday’s event was the 13th town hall she’s held in the district this year, according to her office. McMorris Rodgers said she recognized the passion of many of those who questioned her.

“I think it was reflective of the times in which we’re living,” she said.