McMorris Rodgers’ event draws supporters, critics

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SPOKANE — An August town hall had a very November feel Monday as U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers addressed a crowd that included her election opponent and struck an optimistic tone on many of the major issues facing Congress.

“I recognize that we, in Congress, have not been able on some of the big issues – there was ‘the grand bargain,’ which I believe needs to happen – to get the job done,” said the chair of the House Republican Caucus, referring to the failed ploy to get the GOP and Democrats on board with a spending plan that would reduce the national debt. “I think everyone has played a role in that, Republicans and Democrats.”

McMorris Rodgers addressed a crowd at the Lincoln Center of about 200 people, many of whom had waved signs calling for the congresswoman’s ouster in the parking lot beforehand. Demonstrators supporting Joe Pakootas, the Democrat vying to replace McMorris Rodgers, outnumbered those holding signs in favor of the GOP incumbent about 2-to-1 before the annual town hall, despite her easy victory in this month’s primary.

Inside the event center, McMorris Rodgers largely avoided discussion of President Barack Obama’s health care law, a topic that has historically drawn the most vocal response from the partisan crowds at past events. While she advocated repeal of the Affordable Care Act at an event one year ago, her comments Monday reflected a desire to work with other lawmakers to incrementally change the law she told The Spokesman-Review earlier this year was unlikely to be repealed.

“The House has taken action to delay the individual mandate, to delay the employer mandate, to repeal the 30-hour workweek provision, and there’s some others,” McMorris Rodgers said. “... (T)he law’s been on the books for four years now, and we’re seeing where there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.”

But her opponent, Pakootas, said after the meeting that the people had already spoken and attempts to change or repeal the law ignored their wishes.

“It doesn’t resonate with voters at all,” Pakootas said, adding “as long as the Affordable Care Act is in place, I don’t think she’s going to be representative of the people.”

McMorris Rodgers also was asked by an attendee about her mailers arriving in the district paid for with taxpayer dollars.

She said the mailers were sent to keep constituents informed of her work in the district.

“I do believe that part of communicating with the people I represent is sending out the mailings, so they know what I’ve been working on and what my priorities are,” she said.

Stella McDonald, who asked the question about the mailing, was concerned about the timing of their arrival and her ability to send communiqués at taxpayers’ expense, a privilege not afforded her opponent.

“It just isn’t fair,” McDonald said.

A reoccurring policy question Monday was whether McMorris Rodgers would support proposed Department of Transportation rules governing the transport of crude oil across the state. McMorris Rodgers said she needs more time to study it.

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