Leadership spots give state more clout in Congress

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It’s official. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is now a big-time national political leader.

This week the Spokane lawmaker who represents Walla Walla in Congress, was elected Republican Conference chairwoman, the fourth highest leadership post in the GOP-controlled House.

McMorris Rodgers had the attention of the national media. The leadership election was framed by McClatchy Newspapers this way: The contest represented essentially a new, younger, more diverse vision of the party with McMorris Rodgers, who was backed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and a more traditional, conservative view with Georgia Rep. Tom Price

“It does show our party values strong female leadership,” said Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana. She said she expects the Republican Party now to “try and do a better job of getting our message out to a broader audience.”

McMorris Rodgers’ ascension up the leadership ladder is good for her congressional district and Washington state.

And in the Senate, where Democrats control things, Washington state’s Sen. Patty Murray, D-Seattle, remains in the fifth highest leadership post. She was re-elected secretary of the caucus.

Murray, like McMorris Rodgers, is seen as a rising star on the national stage. She oversaw the Senate Democrats’ election strategy with great skill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had high praise for Murray’s leadership in an interview with The Las Vegas Sun.

“We ran a message, led by Sen. Murray, from Montana to Massachusetts,” Reid said

Murray pulled off something that a year ago not even Reid was predicting, The Sun reported. Democrats were expected to lose seats in 2012, potentially enough they would lose the majority in the Senate. Instead, they gained seats.

These two leadership posts are a boon for Washington state, too.

Leadership positions and seniority matter in both houses of Congress. Although much has changed in politics over the years, this is one area that has not. It takes clout to get things done.

McMorris Rodgers and Murray have clout.

And, as the highest ranking women in the House and Senate, they are closely watched by the national media. Their views on nearly every issue of national importance will be sought. This provides them an opportunity to shape policy and help set the national agenda.

The two lawmakers will, of course, have completely different political viewpoints — McMorris Rodgers a conservative and Murray a liberal.

Still, they are Washingtonians and have both shown themselves to be excellent representatives of state and regional concerns. For example, the pair have been focused like a laser on making sure the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial VA Medical Center in Walla Walla remains open.

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