Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

By Jana Mathia
Gazette Reporter 

McMorris Rodgers talks trade, energy at Colfax stop


April 25, 2019

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers answers question at the Public Service Building in Colfax Monday.

Fifth District Congressional Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers addressed constituents Monday morning at the Public Service Building in Colfax as part of a tour of the district. The main topics revolved around trade and energy with both tied into the Snake River dams.

McMorris Rodgers greeted the audience, which included businessmen, county and port commissioners and area farmers, and said a "battle of ideas is waged every day" in Congress. She noted her work in protecting river systems, increasing rural medical availability and work opportunity for those with disabilities and the low jobless rate in Eastern Washington.

"I'm encouraged with our economy right now," she said.

She noted the challenge for businesses is now in finding employees which she saw as the opportunity for work force development, especially construction jobs such as electricians and plumbers―trades needed to meet the rising demand in housing.

She stated she was taking a break from legislative leadership to focus on her committees and sub-committees which deal with energy and trade.

"My mission is to restore trust and confidence in government and the American way," she said.

Trade and trade agreements were brought up by the representative and different members of the audience, including Alex McGregor of the McGregor Company.

"Trade is such a fundamental issue," McGregor noted.

He asked about trade with Japan, expressing the hope to make a level playing field on tariffs with the Trans Pacific Partnership and encouraging Japan in trade relations.

"I recognize that the relationship with Japan is top priority," McMorris Rodgers said.

Earlier in the meeting she had stated that 90 percent of Washington state's wheat is exported and 50 percent of that is to Japan.

In response to McGregor, she said she will be going back to the United States, Mexico, Canada trade agreement, and that is going to be the first agreement to finalize and it is important to get it done.

Port Commissioner Tom Kammerzell thanked McMorris Rodgers for her advocacy of the Snake and Columbia rivers system.

"It is so important to the economy of Eastern Washington," he noted.

"It is important to the economy of Western Washington, too," she replied.

"It is foundational to Washington state's economy."

She said the state has the lowest electricity rates in the country due to the availability of hydro power which makes up 70 percent of the area's electricity. With the economy, barges on the river are important to the export industry.

"The river is also the environmentally-friendly way to move all of that product," she said, pointing out many advocates for removal of the dams don't consider the environmental impact of moving the products on trains and trucks.

"So I just think that we really need to get away from the hysteria and be pragmatic. No one wants to see the orca whales become extinct."

She pointed out other factors that affect orca health are pollution, the impact of boats and increase in sea lion population.

The congresswoman recounted a presentation from Reardan High School students last week which highlighted that 10 years ago there were 300 sea lions at the mouth of the Columbia River and now there are 4,000.

She also noted the importance of the dams in irrigation and agriculture.

Multiple attendees brought up their concerns about climate change and carbon emissions.

"I'm concerned about my children and my grandchildren," said Mark Bordsen of Colfax.

McMorris Rodgers talked about various aspects addressing climate change including forest management to reduce carbon emission from forest fires.

"And you know, as Americans, we have reduced our carbon emissions more than any other country in the world in the last 30 years," she said.

The last question was taken from Simon Smith of Pullman who seconded Bordsen in requesting McMorris Rodgers support the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act. He also commended McMorris Rodgers on the civility of her tone and meetings.

The representative noted the past few years have been a "toxic environment," but she was conducting dinners to bring people together to talk about issues.

"It is powerful to actually take the time to hear each other's stories and to be able to listen and gain understanding," she said.

Other attendees asked her views on the Liberty state proposal, her newly appointed role as Republican party representative to the United Nations, the president's hostility toward minorities, and the Veterans Administration.

McMorris Rodgers concluded by pointing out the Capitol building is located in the center of Washington, D.C., to reflect the people are at the center of power for the U.S. government.

Following the town hall, McMorris Rodgers attended a lunch with county commissioners at the Top Notch Café in Colfax.


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