If you missed the so-so movie “Twister,” a recommended substitute is to follow the gyrations, groveling, and reversals of course of U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, in supporting President Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
McMorris Rodgers and fellow Republican Congressman Dan Newhouse in December joined the quickly dismissed Texas lawsuit to overturn results of the November 3 election. After that verdict, she then congratulated President-elect Joe Biden on his win, while vowing to fight Biden in her role as ranking Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
On Wednesday, she flipped back, joining far-right House Republican Caucus colleagues in objecting to certification of Electoral College results in what is usually a brief ceremony before a joint session of Congress. The state’s other two Republican House members, Reps. Newhouse and Jaime Herrera Beutler, have declined to join the rebellion.
McMorris Rodgers has tried to give soft focus to her actions and put lipstick on a pig, saying: “My vote is not one to overturn the election, but it’s to shed light on the questions that millions of Americans have that have not yet been answered.”
By her action, however, McMorris Rodgers has become an enabler of the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol beneath whose dome she pursues political power. Of course, CMR was up with a Tweet: “Stop these attacks on Capitol Police who serve to protect the People’s House.”
It’s enough to bring tears to your eyes, if you happen to be a crocodile.
The mob assault on the U.S. Capitol prompted another McMorris Rodgers reversal. Late Wednesday, in the wake of the “unlawful and unacceptable” riot, CMR said she would “vote to uphold the Electoral College results.” She urged President Trump to speak out against lawlessness. “We must have a peaceful transfer of power,” she said, and downplayed her previous determination to object. “I have been consistent in my belief that Americans should utilize the Constitutional tools and legal processes available to seek answers to their questions about the 2020 election.”
Such is the political equivalent of the old British Secret Service expression of doing a “duck dive.” McMorris Rodgers does not want to be seen as an enabler of an attack on the U.S. Capitol beneath whose done she has pursued power.
CMR has a way with press statements and mastered sound bites during years of Fox News interviews. What she has yet to acknowledge is that Trump has spewed false claims, threatened fellow Republicans, and just incited a mob. He has cost America dearly, and in Tuesday’s special Georgia elections cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate.
It is one man – Donald Trump – who spews the false claims and eggs on the mob. The 2020 election loser has come up short more than 60 times in court, been rebuffed trying to put the arm to Republican state legislators, and caught on tape asking the Secretary of State in Georgia to “find” votes that would give Trump the Peachtree State.
After the 2018 mid-term election, McMorris was supplanted as chair of the House Republican Conference – the No 4 leadership post – by Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyoming. Like papa Dick, Cheney is a combative conservative, but a believer in the Constitution. As McMorris Rodgers was objecting, Cheney tweeted Wednesday: “We have sworn an oath unto God to defend the Constitution. We uphold that oath at all times, not only when it is politically expedient. Congress has no authority to overturn elections by objecting to electors. Doing so steals power from the states and violates the Constitution.”
Vice President Mike Pence voiced similar sentiments in a morning letter to members of Congress, defying demands by Trump that he misuse his position – the Vice President is president of the Senate – to refuse to accept electoral votes. The letter leaked to the press just as Trump addressed a rally and demanded that his hitherto-obedient Vice President overturn actions of the voters and states’ certification.
Rep. Herrera Beutler, interviewed by The Columbian, noted that five dozen Trump legal challenges have not produced “widespread evidence that would overturn an election.” JHB, once an aide to McMorris Rodgers, added: “There is an end date on it. We need to move on to solving problems for citizens.”
What moves McMorris Rodgers? She has a safe House seat, having withstood a serious 2018 Democratic challenge from former State Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown. (Brown is now director of the state Department of Commerce.) But she also has to be alert to far-right influence in the ranks of Spokane County Republicans, witness such extremists as former State Rep. Matt Shea and Rep. Jenny Graham.
The result, for McMorris Rodgers, has been an embrace of Trump and Trumpism. She welcomed “the Donald” to Spokane in May of 2016, saying she would vote for him in the state’s presidential primary. She hosted Trump at a House Republican Caucus session later in 2016, at a time when Trump’s campaign appeared to be in serious difficulty. She was an advocate and propagandist for the 2017 Republican tax cut, depicting as friendly to Main Street a measure that bestowed additional riches on America’s very rich. She was honorary co-chair of Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign in Washington.
Elected in 2004, McMorris Rodgers has been a rising star in the Republican Caucus. Centrist Republicans are becoming as rare and endangered on Capitol Hill as the spotted owl out in this Washington. Hence, the path to power is pandering to the right, even at the expense of this Washington and her constituents.
The New York Times opinion columnist Timothy Egan, a Spokane boy, took note of McMorris Rodgers’ home turf of Stevens County in a memorable column. At the time of Egan’s column, Stevens County had an unemployment rate 30 percent above the national average. One in six people lived below the poverty line, one in five were on food stamps. Obamacare proved a boon to economically depressed Northeast Washington and the medical center at Spokane.
“Given that picture, it would seem surprising that McMorris Rodgers voted to drastically cut food aid last year, and joined her party in resisting emergency benefits to the unemployed,” Egan wrote. “She has been a leading strategist in the unrelenting Republican attempt to kill the Affordable Care Act.”
Loan guarantees from the U.S. Export-Import Bank have been a key resource in Washington state exports, from Boeing’s passenger jets to music stands built by an entrepreneur in Yakima. The authorization for Ex-Im ran out five years ago and was bottled up by ultraconservative Republicans in the House Financial Services Committee. With leadership from GOP Rep. Dave Reichert, and Democrat Rep. Denny Heck, a discharge petition was deployed. More than half the House signed it, forcing the issue to a floor vote. Reauthorization passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote. Dan Newhouse signed the discharge petition and so did Jamie Herrera Beutler. Not McMorris Rodgers, despite a lecture/appeal from Sen. Maria Cantwell. Apparently the right in the House Republican Caucus was not to be riled.
In a Spokesman Review story, McMorris Rodgers played pander bear to Trump, repeating his nonsensical claim that “something went wrong when they stopped counting votes in the middle of election night.” She recycled a local politician’s claims that more folks voted in Pennsylvania than were on the voter rolls. She conjured up “a constitutional crisis” over an honestly run election, conducted in the midst of a pandemic, which drew a two-thirds turnout.
Lisa Brown reflected Tuesday on her Facebook page: “The lies, authoritarianism, constant racist tropes and corruption of the last four years were enabled by those Republicans who refused to call it out as the slope got even more slippery. Cathy’s now up to her elbows in the muck, and her quotes . . . add insult to the injury she is doing to the Republic.”
The Eastern Washington wildfires of the past five years are nothing compared to the potential from Trump’s arson attack on American democracy. Cathy McMorris Rodgers should check her ambitions when it comes to duties under the Constitution.