HH: Joined now by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of the great state of Washington. She is the highest ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, vice-chair of the Republican conference. Congresswoman, welcome, it’s great to have you on.
CMR: Thank you, good to be with you.
HH: Your ears may have been burning, because I was with Pete Sessions at an event in Las Vegas yesterday, and he was telling me about your partnership together to work on Down Syndrome and your founding of the Caucus with him.
HH: And so I hope all good stuff. I’ve never had the chance to meet you before.
CMR: Yes, Pete’s a good friend.
HH: Well, you’ve also got to be excited today. You’ve endorsed Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum has dropped out. And I think it’s obvious to everyone now Governor Romney’s going to be the Republican nominee. How strong do you think that ticket is?
CMR: Well, I think it is, I think it’s a very strong ticket going into the fall. Governor Romney is someone that has proven he can get the job done. He’s shown tremendous leadership, whether it was in the private sector or the public sector. And I’m excited about someone like him, with his vast experience getting in the Oval Office and getting this country back on track.
HH: I want to talk unemployment with you and jobs, but before, obviously, you’re on everyone’s short list for vice presidential speculation. How are you reacting to that? And how’s the Middy you married reacting to that?
CMR: Well, you know, I’ve always just been focused on being the best representative that I can be for the people of Eastern Washington, and that’s continuing to be my focus. And those other ideas? That’s just never been on my radar screen.
HH: Now is your husband teasing you, though, and calling you Madame Vice President?
CMR: No, not at all.
HH: Not in the least?
CMR: (laughing) No.
HH: Okay, just checking.
HH: I know the Annapolis types, and they can do that.
CMR: No, that’s not my husband’s style, that’s for sure.
HH: Congresswoman, the jobs numbers were very disappointing on Friday. You serve with Fred Upton on Energy & Commerce. What do you make of those numbers?
CMR: Well, bottom line, more Americans have lost their jobs under President Obama than at any other time in American history. And they prove once again that President Obama’s policies are failing this country, failing to turn the economy around. They have failed to lower unemployment, despite the promises that he made early on in his administration when we were debating the stimulus, and he said you know, you must pass this stimulus, and if you don’t, unemployment is going to go above 8%. Well, we haven’t seen unemployment below 8% since that time. And it just underscores that we need new leadership in the White House.
HH: Now I want to focus in, and I don’t want to be focusing only on women because you’re the highest-ranking Republican woman, but the statistics are pretty stunning, and it is said that Mitt Romney has a woman problem. Labor force participation for women has declined under President Obama. Black female unemployment is increased by 3.1%. Hispanic female unemployment has increased by .6% under President Obama. The number of unemployed women has increased by 858,000. So the woman problem here, if there’s any women problem, belongs to the President, doesn’t it?
CMR: Yes, the Democrats have been manufacturing this war on women, suggesting that the Republicans are waging a war on women. And I think you point out some very important numbers. You know, the Republicans won the women’s vote in 2010. And it wasn’t covered in the mainstream media very much. I believe it was driven by two main issues, one being health care, but the other being the economy. And women are starting businesses at a record pace. It’s really exciting to see women entrepreneurs in America starting their businesses either at home or online. And they know firsthand the challenges of regulations and taxes. Women also make the health care decisions in this country, 85% of the health care decisions, and they know that this health care bill is the wrong direction. They don’t like the idea of the federal government interfering with their ability to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. And so I think women make their decisions based upon a lot of issues, and they know that President Obama’s policies, once again, are failing, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s health care, whether it’s the debt that he’s accumulated and that we are passing on to our children and grandchildren.
HH: As part of the Republican leadership, if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare, will the House Republicans have a response ready that day, with the Speaker and the rest of the leadership of which you are a part, as to what ought to replace it, and what ought to, if anything, be done about some of the groups that have picked up coverage, but now will not be covered if it’s struck down?
CMR: Well, the Republicans believe that we need to repeal the current health care bill, and we need to replace it with a better approach. And we are working on that legislation even right now, no matter how the Supreme Court rules. The Republicans are going to be ready with a proposal to show that there’s a better way forward that would bring back that personal ownership in our health care decisions, and ensure that each one of us individually, and as a family, can make the best decisions for our ourselves, and that it won’t be the federal government interfering. And I’m actually optimistic that the Court is going to rule that this bill is unconstitutional, and we’re going to be able to have another debate in this country over the best way forward.
HH: Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers is my guest. She is a member of Energy & Commerce. We had Chairman Upton on last week, or as I like to call him now, Congressman “Call me Fred,” because that’s what he always says. So Congressman Call Me Fred was on to talk about gas prices, and you’re obviously on that committee, and about exploration generally. Do you think that there will be any movement from Team Obama, given the pricing here, to allow exploration on public lands between now and the election?
CMR: President Obama understands that he has a problem with the rising gas prices in this country. For every penny increase in gas prices, it equates to a billion dollar impact on our economy. And we’re seeing these gas prices escalating. If there ever was a time to start saying yes to American energy, it is now. And President Obama, he’s very good at saying one thing and then doing another. And we’ve seen on energy where he talks about an all of the above approach, and yet says no to the Keystone Pipeline. We hear him talking about record number of permits now on federal lands, and oil production on federal lands, and yet it wasn’t his administration. It was the previous administration, and his administration has actually decreased the number of opportunities to explore, develop right here in America. So President Obama is very good at saying one thing, doing another. We, as gas prices go up, I am hopeful, I am hopeful that President Obama will start recognizing that this is the time to start saying yes to American energy. We have abundant resources in this country. If there ever was a time, it is now. And it’s yes to natural gas, to oil, to nuclear, to wind, to solar, to hydropower. We need to have a plan and a commitment to energy independence. It’s the best thing that we could do to make America strong and revive our economy, and also get Americans back to work and maintain our position of leadership in the world.
HH: Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers, if I can keep you for just three more minutes, I want to hold you over the break, and I’ll be right back.
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HH: Congresswoman, I wanted to ask you just a couple of political questions. Can Mitt Romney carry Washington state?
CMR: Washington’s going to be tough, but I believe Mitt Romney can do it. If anyone can do it, it is Mitt Romney. George W. Bush came, he got like 48% the first time he ran in 2000. So it was close then, and I think Mitt Romney is the type of candidate that can win Washington State and many other states.
HH: Now in terms of, Washington is always, my friend, Michael Medved, is up there in Seattle. And I always hear about your King County voting issues, and the dead voting, and apartment buildings have 700 people in it that don’t live there, and they vote. Has that been cleaned up? Or is Washington State’s King County still a problem?
CMR: It’s still a challenge for us. We’ve taken some steps to clean up the voting issues that we have had. There’s also just the reality of the dominance that King County has in population for the rest of the state. And when King County decides to get out and vote, it is, it’s a challenge to counter that. But we have shown that when the rest of Washington, if we can get our voter turnout up, we can overcome King County. That’s our challenge.
HH: And I want to close by talking to you about Defense. You are married to a Navy veteran commander, and you obviously serve in the middle of this Defense build down. The sequestration is looming. Mitt Romney’s promised to build nine ships a year, get us back to 313. How critical is that both in Washington State and the United States that this commitment to the Navy be followed through on?
CMR: Oh, it’s extremely critical. We, you know, when you think of the federal government, the number one priority for the federal government is national defense, and keeping this country safe. And I, like many other people, are very concerned about sequestration, the impact that it’s going to have on our military, our position in the world. I want America to be strong. I want us to be the leader. And we need to be taking steps to make sure that our military is efficient, yes, but the type of cuts that they will face, if the current path is sustained, would really cripple our military moving forward. And yes, my husband is retired from the Navy. He was a commander in the Navy. And he recognizes that yes, everyone needs to be a part of addressing our fiscal situation as a country. But we need to make sure we do it smart. And the current approach is one that is actually going to have a very negative impact on our military, and therefore our position in the world moving forward.
HH: Cathy McMorris Rodgers, great to have you on the program. I look forward to having you back early and often, and thanks for spending time with us.
End of interview.