State of the Union Reaction

by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Published in the Othello Outlook.

After President Obama delivered his recent State of the Union speech, I remain hopeful that he and Congress can work together in a bipartisan way to grow our economy, create jobs, and put our fiscal house in order.

All across Eastern Washington, there is a growing consensus that the status quo is not working.  We are experiencing the longest streak of high unemployment since the Great Depression.  We are adding over $1 trillion per year to our $15 trillion debt.  And on issues ranging from health care to airline security, from Solyndra to the Wall Street bailout, there is a growing concern that government is out of control and the American Dream is in danger.

I share those concerns.  The “spend, borrow, and bailout” policies of the last few years have clearly failed.  I’ve opposed those policies since Day One, but it’s not good enough to oppose bad policies; we also need to advance positive, constructive solutions. 

So far, House Republicans have passed 27 jobs bills which the Senate refuses to consider.  These bills take a “back to basics” approach to growing our economy – putting people first and getting government out of the way.  And this month, we received a strong boost from an unlikely source: the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. They released a report endorsing pro-growth policies like tax reform, regulatory relief, and expanding domestic energy production.  These are common-sense ideas which shouldn’t divide the parties, but unite them. 

Consider energy: The Council specifically endorsed an “all-in” energy strategy.  That means we can’t just rely on “green energy.”  We also need traditional energies, like oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and my personal favorite – hydropower.  

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, I’ve been working to promote hydropower as a clean, affordable energy source.  Despite its numerous advantages, however, hydro remains vastly underutilized.  That’s why I recently introduced The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act.  This bipartisan bill would streamline the permitting process for small hydropower and conduit projects, create jobs, and reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil.  We have the natural resources to achieve energy independence; we just need to get government out of way. 

I will champion my hydropower bill as part of a bipartisan legislative agenda directly focused on Eastern Washington.  At the top of that agenda is bringing the KC-46A tanker to Fairchild Air Force Base, the largest employer in Eastern Washington. 

Last year, after a ten-year delay, the Air Force finally awarded the tanker contract to Boeing. Now our goal is to make sure those tankers are flying over Fairchild.  I’ve led a delegation of Spokane-area leaders to the Pentagon to meet with the Secretary of the Air Force and other high-ranking officials to discuss the importance of Fairchild and the new tankers.  We will be repeating the trip this year.

I’ve been proud to work in a bipartisan way with Gov. Gregoire, Sen. Murray, and Sen. Cantwell to bring the tankers to Fairchild.  Last month, we wrote a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to outline the exceptional assets Fairchild has to offer the new fleet. We will continue to work together – Republican and Democrat – to make this goal a reality.

Another top priority is health care.  Every person in Eastern Washington should have access to quality, affordable health care.  And yet, as Dr. Anne Montgomery, a Spokane physician and president-elect of the Washington Academy of Family Physicians, recently pointed out: “We don’t grow enough of our own doctors to meet the demand of the people.” That’s because doctors are most likely to practice near where they complete their residency.  And so, by expanding Graduate Medical Education (GME) in Spokane, we can go a long way to meeting the demand.

I recently introduced a bipartisan bill to do exactly that – The Primary Care Workforce Access Improvement Act.  This bill would “grow” more family doctors in Eastern Washington by requiring the federal GME program, which helps pay for medical residencies, to create a pilot program that would pay for training at community-based medical programs, as well as hospitals. 

Last, but, not least is the North Spokane Corridor.  The first leg opened recently – thanks in part to federal funding – but now we have to complete it.  The Corridor is a true shovel-ready project that will create jobs and bolster our economy, and so I will continue to work closely with my colleagues to get the job done.

As the new session of Congress begins, please be assured that I am committed to doing what is good and right for Eastern Washington and America. Together, we can change the direction of our country and keep the American Dream alive for our children and grandchildren.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers represents Eastern Washington in Congress.

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