Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, 48, a Washington Republican and the GOP conference chairwoman, talks about being a lawmaking mom, putting together the member retreat and surviving the House schedule.
Q: What advice would you give to a Republican mother who is hesitant about running for Congress?
A: If I can do it, you can do it. I would just encourage them to go for it. Being a member of Congress, being a working mom as a member of Congress, is not that different than millions of other working moms across the country. It’s more high profile. You do it in front of the cameras. I find a lot of fulfillment and purpose in what I’m doing and really believe that I’m making a difference for my kids and the next generation.
Q: The Republican retreat is coming up on Jan. 31. What goes into planning that?
A: I’m proud that the last three years, working with Sen. John Thune, it’s been a joint House and Senate retreat. We had gone for a long time without having the senators on the retreat. We’ll have the president, the vice president [and] we’ve invited other Cabinet members to come. It’s really just an opportunity that we rarely have to spend time together and also to think about and discuss our goals for 2018.
Q: What did you do for the long weekend?
A: I spoke at the Martin Luther King rally in Spokane and launched the return to civility pledge that I am really excited to be leading in eastern Washington — a result of a series of meetings and dinners that I had last year. Coming out of the election, a local guy in Spokane … [said], ‘Cathy, you know there’s something about bringing people together over dinner and putting away the cellphones and sharing a meal that just really can be impactful.’ He said, ‘As a leader in this community, I think it would mean a lot if you were to bring diverse people together and have a unity dinner.’ So I took him up on his challenge, and we’ve been having these unity dinners.
Q: You were a staffer for former Washington state Rep. Bob Morton. What perspective does that give you as a member?
A: There’s no substitute for actually being the elected representative. When you’re living it, it’s just really different. I think being a staffer gave me a perspective that’s valuable in the sense that I was committed, I was passionate about what the member was doing when I was a staffer. I’m glad I have that perspective now as a member to know that my staff is committed and as passionate as I am.
Q: What was your most challenging day in office?
A: Some of my most challenging days came when I was a freshman because trying to wrap my hands around the schedule and all of the demands, it seemed impossible. I remember one day I was in the Education [and the Workforce] Committee, and we were voting at the same time the [Natural] Resources Committee was voting. And I just, like, gave up — there’s just no way I can physically do this, and people back home are going to say that I’m missing votes.
Last book read: “The Speed of Trust.”
Pet peeve: The people that seem like they have to push others on the airplane in order to get off the quickest. We all want to get off that plane. It goes back to basic civility.
Cats or dogs: I kind of want to say both. If I had to choose, I would probably go with dogs. We have a dog.
If you could have dinner with one person, living or dead: Abraham Lincoln.