McMorris Rodgers Strikes Upbeat Tone as She Reflects on Her Time in Office and the Challenges That Lie Ahead

“I am optimistic that — in the midst of a difficult Congress and a difficult time in the country — we are going to continue to get things done.”

WASHINGTON, DC — A little over three months after announcing she planned to retire at the conclusion of the 118th Congress, The Ripon Society hosted a breakfast discussion with Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) to hear her reflections on her two decades of service in the U.S. House of Representatives and what she hopes her Committee will be able to accomplish between now and the end of the year.

“To be the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee really has been the highlight of my time on Capitol Hill,” the veteran lawmaker stated in remarks to open the discussion. “I believe in this great experiment in self-governance. I believe in entrepreneurship and innovation and creativity and creating jobs. When we are debating how to create more jobs and lift people out of poverty and raise the standard of living, America has led the way. And it’s so important that America leads, because leadership matters and American leadership matters.

“It’s been extraordinary for me to lead the Energy and Commerce Committee. I’m really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. And there’s more to be done. It is full speed ahead until the end of the year, and I am optimistic that – in the midst of a difficult Congress and a difficult time in the country – we are going to continue to get things done.”

McMorris Rodgers was first elected to the House in 2004. A mother of three and former Minority Leader in the Washington State House of Representatives, she quietly but confidently climbed the leadership ranks during her time in Congress, serving as Chair of the Republican Conference – the third highest leadership position in the House – before she was selected to serve as Chair of the E&C Committee at the beginning of last year.

In her remarks, she noted the challenges still facing the nation that she plans to address in the coming months.

One of those challenges is energy security and the need for permitting reform.

“The first major package of this Congress was H.R. 1,” McMorris Rodgers stated, “and we’ve continued to lead since that time. Just last week, the President signed legislation that I led in the House, working with Senator Barrasso, to ban the importation of uranium from Russia. It’s pretty clear to me that President Putin has used energy as a weapon. So I was really pleased and encouraged that President Biden signed that bill to ban the importation of uranium.”

By signing this bill, she added, the President sent “a clear signal that we are committed to American nuclear technology and leading in the next generation of nuclear technology. The advanced nuclear reactors are very exciting … There’s been one permitted nuclear plant from start to finish since the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was established in 1975. We need to do better.”

“It takes seven years on average to permit anything – a road, a plant, manufacturing, whatever it might be. The new chip plants – if federal dollars are involved, you’re talking seven years on average; a lot of times, it’s longer. So we must address permitting reform.”

Another challenge McMorris Rodgers said she plans to focus on in the coming months is healthcare reform and the need to lower costs for the American people.

“The United States spends more on healthcare as a percentage of our economy than any developed nation,” she observed. “My priority this Congress has been to really get a better handle on what the actual prices are within the healthcare system. At the end of last year, we passed the Lower Costs, More Transparency Act that is building upon what the Trump administration had put into place. Working with the Democrats, we were able to pass that out of committee unanimously.”

“I believe that getting a handle on what’s driving the cost of healthcare is foundational to addressing other reforms so we can make smarter decisions. When you look at the amount of money that the federal government spends on healthcare and what’s driving up deficits and the debt in the United States, a lot of it is in healthcare.”

The third challenge the E&C Chair said she plans to tackle in the coming months related to technology and making sure American families and businesses are protected as new developments and capabilities in that vital sector of our economy continue to unfold.

To that end, she commended the House for overwhelmingly approving bipartisan legislation to ban TikTok in the U.S.

“This is not about scoring political points,” she stated matter-of-factly. “This is about addressing what I believe is a very destructive tool. I thought Kat Cammack said it really well. She said this is like 177 million spy balloons here in the United States.”

In regards to establishing a national data privacy standard she said: “It’s a priority for the committee. It’s a priority for me. And you know what, it’s a priority for the American people. I know there are people who maybe are not as excited about it as I am. But I do not believe that we can just continue business as usual on the Internet, where it is just collecting unlimited amounts of data on every single one of us and on our kids. We don’t even know what’s being collected on us.

“And it is not just being collected, it’s being sold. It’s getting into the hands of people who really want to do harm. So we must do a little bit of a reset. We’ve got to reset how the rules of the road are going to go. If you look at the states, more states are passing privacy laws at the state level … If you’re a business, how exactly are you going to navigate 50 different state laws? I would propose that having a national standard is going to be in your best interest.”

Following her opening remarks, McMorris Rodgers took a number of questions, including one about her time in Congress and what she would point to as “one highlight” of her career.

“I never dreamed that I would ever be asked to give the response to the President’s State of the Union,” she said. “And that happened right after I’d given birth the third time, to Brynn. She was born in November of 2013. And a couple of weeks after that, Speaker John Boehner is trying to get ahold of me.

“I was actually at a Christmas party with the staff, and I was like, ‘Well, he’s probably calling to say congratulations on Brynn or ‘Those NRCC dues Cathy – you still have a little bit of them.’ That was kind of what went through my mind. Instead, he says, ‘Mitch McConnell and I have been talking, and we’d like you to give the response to the President’s State of the Union.’ I’m like, ‘Well, if you think so. It’s sleepless nights and really kind of chaotic in my household right now.’ I didn’t tell him that. I said, ‘Well, if you think so, I’ll do my best.’ He said, ‘Cathy, don’t overthink it. Just be yourself.’

“It really meant a lot to hear the Speaker say that – to acknowledge that I don’t have to be someone else. I don’t have to talk like someone else. I don’t have to look like someone else. I don’t have to dress like someone else. That was definitely a highlight, and it really was a moment that had a huge impact on me.”

McMorris Rodgers was also asked for her views on the state of social media and the country’s technology sector at a time when online safety and security is becoming of real public concern.

“There was a time when I was Vice Chair of the House Republican Conference that I was all about getting our members on Facebook and Twitter,” she recounted. “That was how we were going to connect with people. That was how we were going to get our message out directly to people all across this nation.

“Fast forward to where we are today, and I would say that the tech companies have lost sight of what their mission was. You know, they started out saying it was to connect and it was to build community. Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act says that they are to moderate for illicit and illegal activity and material. Are they doing that? I would say no. In fact, the courts have ruled that they don’t have to.

“So where have the tech companies gone wrong? They’re not fulfilling their responsibility. They’re not moderating for illicit and illegal activity. And in fact, in too many examples, they’re helping facilitate it. I think it’s become more about algorithms to keep people online. The goal now is to just keep us on our screens and make money. It is to influence, and I’ll leave it at that. Unfortunately, they’re not being responsible with this tool that they have built.

“And that’s why I do believe that we have to step in on Section 230. I have worked for years trying to hammer out reforms to Section 230. It’s difficult. But it needs to happen. Sometimes Congress operates better when there’s a deadline. So that’s why Frank Pallone and I are introducing the bill to sunset Section 230 by December 31, 2025 – to force Congress to take this up because it needs to happen.”

To view the remarks of Chair McMorris Rodgers before The Ripon Society yesterday morning, please click the link below:

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.