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Energy and Commerce Chair Rodgers won’t run again

10-term Washington Republican served in leadership, switched to focus on policy

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Thursday she will not seek reelection in November.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said Thursday she will not seek reelection in November. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a 10-term Republican from Washington state who has been a strong advocate for people with disabilities, announced Thursday she would not seek reelection this year.

“It’s been the honor and privilege of my life to represent the people of Eastern Washington in Congress. They inspire me every day,’’ Rodgers said in a statement. “After much prayer and reflection, I’ve decided the time has come to serve them in new ways. I will not be running for re-election to the People’s House.”

The announcement comes as Rodgers is leading negotiations with the Senate on a wide-ranging health care package that touches all parts of the industry. The legislation would implement more transparency in data and pricing for prescription drugs and other medical services.

She also leads the committee’s oversight investigations into the Biden administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, procedures around potentially risky research, and the origins of the virus. Additionally, she is working to create a national data privacy standard after a bipartisan bill she wrote with ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., stalled last year.

Most recently, she led the House debate ahead of passage of a bill this week to ban federal programs from using “quality-adjusted life years” in assessing the value of treatments. Disability advocates argue the strategy discounts people with disabilities. Democrats, for their part, support the concept but argued that the bill, as written, goes further and could hinder other strategies to assess cost-effectiveness.

Fought EPA regulations

On Energy, Rodgers has supported the “all-of-the-above” energy approach championed by the majority of her Republican colleagues. She argues the Biden administration has declared a “war on energy” by placing greater regulations on the use of fossil fuels.

She used the top spot on the committee to argue that U.S. policy should aim to support hydropower and nuclear, two sources of electricity that do not generate carbon emissions but have faced some pushback over other effects they have on the environment. She has also expressed strong support for natural gas as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by displacing more carbon-intensive coal.

On the environment, she has been fiercely critical of the Biden administration’s work to tighten EPA regulations, arguing that many of them will make it more difficult for industries to operate in the U.S. Rodgers said the EPA’s tightening of air quality standards for soot announced Wednesday would undermine “efforts to grow America’s manufacturing base and increases our dependence on China.”

In her retirement announcement, Rodgers said she would spend the remainder of her term “plowing the hard ground necessary to legislate on solutions to make people’s lives better and ensure America wins the future.”

Rodgers said her most cherished titles are those of “wife” and “mother,” and spoke of the support provided by her husband, Brian Rodgers, and their children. Rodgers was the first woman to give birth three times while serving in Congress.

Son inspired advocacy

Her son, Cole Rodgers, was born with an extra chromosome and that, she said, inspired her to become an advocate for people with disabilities.

“Cole was with me on the House floor when we passed the ABLE Act, which marked a new chapter of opportunity and independence for people living with a disability,’’ she said, referring to legislation she helped shepherd through that helps people with disabilities open tax-free savings accounts.

Rodgers has cited her son as a reason she is passionately against abortion. She frequently references him as a motivator on issues related to protecting life.

Rodgers, 54, grew up on a fruit orchard in eastern Washington and served in the state legislature before she was elected to Congress in 2004.

She served in GOP leadership for more than a decade, including as House Republican Conference Chair. In 2018, she pivoted away from a more overtly political role to focus on policy. She was selected as the top Republican on Energy and Commerce in 2020, serving as tfirhe first woman of either party to lead her colleagues on the committee.

She took the gavel last year, after Republicans won the majority. Under House GOP conference rules for committee leadership, Rodgers could have served another two years as the top Republican on the committee.

Other departures

Pallone, her Democratic counterpart on the panel, said Rodgers’ departure would be an “incredible loss for Congress.”

“It’s no secret that getting things done around here is hard work, but Cathy and I have been able to get important legislation passed,” he said.

Rodgers joins several members of the Energy and Commerce Committee who have said they will leave office at the end of their current term, or are running for a different office, including seven other Republicans and four Democrats.

Rodgers is the second member of the Washington delegation to announce her retirement: In November, Democratic Rep. Derek Kilmer said he would not seek another term.

Rodgers represents Washington’s largely rural 5th District, a Republican-leaning area that reaches from Oregon to the Canadian border. Three Democrats — Spokane County Democrats Chairwoman Carmela Conroy, obstetrician-gynecologist Bernadine Bank and small-business owner Ann Marie Danimus — are running in the state’s nonpartisan primary in August. The top two finishers in that primary will compete in November.

In 2020, voters in the district backed Donald Trump over Joe Biden by 10 percentage points. The deadline for candidates to file to run is May 10.

“The district has been on the outskirts of the House battleground before, but it would need to be a great Democratic year for the seat to fall out of the Republican column,’’ said Nathan L. Gonzales, an elections analyst with CQ Roll Call.

In her statement, Rodgers did not say what she intends to do next, but left the door open for another act, saying “the best is yet to come.”

Mary Ellen McIntire, Sandhya Raman and Lauren Clason contributed to this report.

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