A Long Way: McMorris Rodgers' Log Cabin Roots
SPOKANE, Wash. - Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is the highest ranking Republican woman in Congress. Her story is a tale of two Washingtons: a life in Washington, D.C., and her life in Spokane, Washington.
In the nation's capital, she's the powerful chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.
There she's been charged with effectively communicating the Republican message and giving the most recent GOP response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address.
But back in Spokane, she's just plain old Cathy.
"I see myself as a typical kid that grew up in America and has been given some tremendous opportunities," McMorris Rodgers told CBN News from her Spokane home.
If McMorris Rodgers had to choose between the two Washingtons, there is no doubt that she would choose Spokane.
It's in eastern Washington. It's very rural, very conservative and exactly where she got her humble roots - so humble that she spent a couple years of her childhood growing up in the remote area of northern British Columbia in Canada.
"We lived in a cabin without electricity, without running water, built a log cabin," she told CBN News, adding that it reminded her of Little House on the Prairie. "Well, that is a favorite of mine!"
After moving back to America, she continued to embark on new challenges, like joining the 4-H Youth Development Organization, where even at a young age she started giving speeches alongside her friend, 'Freckles the Lamb."
It was living on a farm that taught her the value of hard work.
"You have to prune the trees, and then thin the trees and even when it comes time to pick the fruit you still go around still picking what's ripe so you really get to know those trees through the years," McMorris Rodgers said.
She was then off to Pensacola Christian College, working at McDonald's to put herself through school. It all paid off: she became the first in her family to graduate college.
She eventually got into local politics, and now, roughly 15 years later, she's the 200th woman elected to Congress and one of the most influential women in politics.
At God's Leading
McMorris Rodgers believes God is leading her steps.
"If you would have told me maybe when I was in high school that this is where I would be or that I would be giving the Republican address following the president's State of the Union, I might have been overwhelmed," she told CBN News.
"And yet God leads one step of it at a time. He prepares and He equips you for what's next," she said.
Right now, what's next for the congresswoman is making sure the Republican Party's message reaches out to all Americans.
"The old adage that 'people don't care what you know until they know that you care' I think is important," McMorris Rodgers told CBN News.
"And I think we need to be letting people know that we care and that we understand and that we reflect who they are and their experiences," she added.
Women's Rights, Obamacare
As a woman with an influential megaphone, she's pushing back on the Democrats' charge that the GOP isn't on board with equal pay for women.
She points to how Republicans have a long history of support in this area, citing how the party backed the Equal Pay Act as far back as 1963.
When asked if she believes this is deceitful on the part of the Democrats, she has a simple answer.
"It is. It is I really see the Democrats wanting to politicize this issue," she said.
Democrats say women earn just 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. McMorris Rodgers says their math is wrong.
"It is not an accurate reflection of what's really going on," the Washington state lawmaker said. "It doesn't take into consideration the choices that women make and the education and the job fields that women enter."
The other big legislative issue on her plate is Obamacare. Despite a recent flap over her reported remarks that the Affordable Care Act is probably here to stay, McMorris Rodgers has repeatedly tried to repeal it.
"It's a one-size-fits-all, government-knows-best solution to healthcare," she charged.
One reason why healthcare's an important issue to her is because Cole, her first child, was born with Down syndrome.
"It is very difficult news to receive because you don't expect that to happen to you," McMorris Rodgers softly explained.
But the congresswoman is a glass-half-full type of person. She's determined to look on the bright side.
"He's exceeding all expectations. In fact, I've told myself don't put any limits on Cole," she said.
Cole is one of three children for McMorris Rodgers and her husband Brian. They met seven years ago.
"I was 36 before I met Brian Rodgers and I was wondering, 'Am I going to be single for the rest of my life?'" she recalled. "And yet here was this wonderful man, who had never been married, never had kids just waiting for me."
Brian, a retired Navy commander, stays home with the kids while the congresswoman heads off to work.
"I've had an opportunity to do things that few men have the opportunity to do," Brian said. "I'm thrilled and enjoying supporting my wife as she moves forward with her congressional career."
The congressional career of McMorris Rodgers is now also one for the history books. She is the first woman in Congress to ever give birth three times while in office.
Even so, she doesn't think of herself as an historic mother.
"My juggling act I don't think is much different from millions of other working moms in this country," she said.
"And some days it goes better than other days," she continued. "Some days I think 'Okay, we have this figured out' and other days like it's all falling apart."
But she has it together in D.C. She's a strong woman in a place dominated by men. But for Cathy McMorris Rodgers all of this is not about power and clout. For her, it's about her faith in God that led her to where she's at today.
"I'm grateful that I've come to a place where I've recognized that God's will is not the destination; it's not a title; it's not a position," she explained. "God's will is day in and day out being the person that He wants you to be."
"I don't want them ever to say, 'Look at her. She said she was a Christian and look what she did,'" she said. "I want my testimony to be one that is pleasing of Jesus Christ, my Lord and my Savior."