Columnist: Republicans must pick Catherine McMorris Rodgers for house speaker

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 10, 2015

By John A. Tures

Contributing columnist

Now that Rep. Kevin McCarthy has bowed out of the race to replace House Speaker John Boehner, there’s only one logical choice to replace him: Washington Congresswoman Catherine McMorris Rodgers. Though she’s been tagged as a moderate, evidence shows her voting record differs little from her male rivals for the job.

McCarthy perhaps had the inside track, but was likely to face some conservative resistance. But after his amazing gaffe where he described how the Benghazi probe was effective at hurting Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings, he lost whatever grudging support he might have had with most Republicans, giving her additional Teflon coating for future scandals. Clearly, he was not the right person for the job.

Other conservatives were already preparing to run for the position, including Florida Rep. Dan Webster and Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. Sure Dr. Tom Price, the Georgia Congressman who has been running hard for House Majority Leader might set his sights a little higher, now that he faces the prospect of possibly having to battle McCarthy, who may want to keep his job. Other prominent Republicans, like Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, and even Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, and of the Benghazi probe, have all backed away.

Smart money would probably pick Rep. Price, who has the most experience, and may be able to have the votes, or twisted arms, to get to be the first Georgia House Speaker since Newt Gingrich.

But if the Republicans were thinking big picture, instead of a short-term outlook, they would pick a candidate who was passed up for leadership advancement already: Catherine McMorris Rodgers.

McMorris Rodgers has already been hyped by the GOP, having given a State of the Union response to President Barack Obama. Her performance wasn’t too bad and showed she could handle the national stage. And for a party which seems to be increasingly tone-deaf on women’s issues, especially with the Planned Parenthood hearing and temporarily allowing VAWA to expire, she would be a good counterbalance to that disturbing trend.

With Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, Rep. Nancy Pelosi as House Minority Leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren angling to be the first woman to be Senate Minority Leader or Senate Majority Leader, Republicans need to show they have someone in leadership other than, say, Carly Fiorina.

Critics are sure to say she’s too moderate for the job, possibly because she’s a woman (and is therefore assumed to be more moderate). But check her American Conservative Union scores. Her ACU rating of 72, and lifetime rating of 87.3 is as or more conservative than Webster.

It is closer to Chaffetz than one might expect. They both talk a more conservative game, but voting records are another matter. Only Price is more conservative with his ACU scores. But on that score, critics might claim he is too conservative for the position.

If I was betting, I’d say Rep. Tom Price. But if I wanted to win elections, I’d say McMorris Rodgers should be the next House Speaker. Given her SOTU response and her experience as House Republican Conference Chairwoman, she would make a better choice for House speaker.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College. He may be reached at