John Boehner's Replacement: Tapping Cathy McMorris Rodgers Would Make History
While it's been clear for many months (even years) that John Boehner's hold on his position as Speaker of the House was tenuous at best, the news that he was not only stepping down from leadership, but also resigning from Congress entirely, was rather shocking.
As recent reports had made clear, the more conservative wing of Boehner's own party was working to undermine and oust the man who'd held the post since 2011; they turned up the heat even more after Boehner said he wouldn't shut down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood. Yet his sudden resignation, just one day after personally overseeing an historic papal address to Congress (something he'd worked for 20 years to make happen), has left the Republican party to publicly work through an ever-increasing identity crisis and decide: What does the face of the Republican party look like?
Many signs say Boehner's successor will be House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Even if McCarthy doesn't get the nod, it's clear the Republican caucus wants someone who will embody and broadcast the ideals of utmost social and fiscal conservatives, like Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Paul Ryan. But after a half-decade filled with Todd Akin-like gaffes ("If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down") and presidential candidates that routinely spout off outright sexist and offensive lines (cough, cough Trump), Republicans could work towards rehabilitating their image among female voters — and make history — by electing Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers as Speaker.
Never before have the top Republican and Democratic leadership roles been taken by women at the same time, but if McMorris Rodgers were elected to the post, she and Nancy Pelosi would act as the de facto heads of the House, a serious woohoo moment for women. What's more, McMorris Rodgers' record proves that she has the conservative chops to climb her way to the top job. (Oh, and if right now you're thinking, "Speaker of the House? Not that big a deal," don't forget that the Speaker is second in line for the presidency behind the VP. That is one hell of an important job.)
Currently the highest-ranking female Republican in Congress, McMorris Rodgers is already a record-holder. In the Washington House of Representatives, where she served from 1994 to 2005, she was the first woman to lead a House Caucus. She's also the second ever female Chairman of the House Republican Conference and she gave the rebuttal to the 2014 State of the Union, a sure sign of her party's faith in both her values and her personal appeal. Needless to say, McMorris Rodgers is a rising star of the party.
McMorris Rodgers' has also been an advocate for women: In her sophomore term, McMorris-Rodgers was elected as cochair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues and she leads a tech diversity caucus that, as she told U.S. News and World Report, combats "perceived or real barriers that women are facing in the tech field." And she fights her battles where it counts for many women — as a working mom who wants to encourage and bolster other working moms. As Slate's Hanna Rosin noted in a 2014 profile, in 2011 McMorris Rodgers "launched a nationwide campaign to help the GOP find female candidates to run for office. Under her leadership, the party ultimately recruited 112 new candidates; 30 won their primaries and 10 were elected."
What's more, McMorris Rodgers openly documents the tumultuous balancing act of her own life as a mother of three (check out her Instagram feed: half Congressional duties, half adorable family photos) and she’s the only member of Congress to have given birth three times while in office.
But beyond her individual goals and accomplishments, the optics of two women serving as the leaders in the House at the same time Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina vie to become the first female president are sensational. Can you imagine that? A federal government where women not only might run the executive branch, and already have formed an inspired feminist posse in the Supreme Court (we're looking at you, Notorious RBG), but also greatly influence what votes are held and what conversations are had in Congress? Now that makes me excited for the future of politics in this country.
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