Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers is chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 position in leadership. | Getty
Donald Trump is expected to tap Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers to be his Interior secretary, sources told POLITICO.
McMorris Rodgers, 47, is chair of the House Republican Conference, the No. 4 position in leadership. First elected in 2004, she is the most senior female Republican in Congress.
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A reliable conservative who’s well-liked by her colleagues, McMorris Rogers endorsed Trump in May. She was critical of Trump in the wake of the “Access Hollywood” video, but notably did not rescind her support when other female Republicans did.
McMorris Rodgers grew up working on her family’s Oregon farms and orchards. She was the first in her family to graduate college, attending Pensacola Christian College. She received an MBA from the University of Washington.
At 24, she was elected to the Washington state house, where she served for a decade and quickly rose up the ranks to become minority leader. She followed the same upward path in Congress, becoming Conference Chair four terms after coming to Washington, D.C., in 2012. Republicans are already lining up to replace her as conference chair.
McMorris Rodgers briefly ran for whip during the power vacuum caused by the resignation of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). She is married and had three children while serving in office, including a nine-year old son with down syndrome.
Trump’s team settled on McMorris Rodgers after an apparently difficult search. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin was once seen as the top candidate for the job, but sources close to the transition said her interview with Trump did not go well. Trump’s team then started from scratch.
Like most Interior secretary nominees before her, McMorris Rodgers represents a Western state with large swaths of federally-owned land — a crucial criteria for the agency, which focuses heavily on managing the country’s vast network of public land.
McMorris Rodgers has repeatedly voted to limit or repeal key Obama administration climate and environmental regulations. She has also voted to expand offshore drilling and to stop the Interior Department from regulating hydraulic fracturing in states that already have their own fracking rules.
McMorris Rodgers would play a key role in defining Trump’s energy agenda, which includes calls for expanded onshore and offshore oil and gas drilling.
As secretary, she would oversee about one-fifth of the nation’s land, including national parks, wildlife refuges, tribal lands and areas ripe for mining minerals and erecting wind turbines, solar farms and oil and gas pipelines.
McMorris Rodgers’ targets could include ending limits on offshore drilling, lifting Interior’s freeze on new coal leases and abandoning federal fracking regulations, such as a rule that a judge struck down in June.
McMorris Rodgers could also help Trump unravel the department’s recently finished five-year road map for offshore oil and gas drilling, which took two areas in the Arctic out of contention, although doing so could take several years.
Like Trump, she has questioned the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change, saying in a 2012 interview that “scientific reports are inconclusive at best on human culpability for global warming.”
McMorris Rodgers was a member of the conference committee that sought to enact a large energy bill this year for the first time in nearly a decade, though negotiators were ultimately unable to reach an agreement.
She boasted of her state’s “tremendous energy resources, including two of the greatest clean energy resources, hydropower and carbon-neutral biomass” at the conference committee’s only public hearing. At the time, she touted her contributions to the House version of the bill related to relicensing hydropower dams and easing the federal government’s ability to address wildfires.
Esther Whieldon contributed to this report.