Presidents don’t typically look to the Pacific Northwest to fill Cabinet posts, which made the rumored nomination of Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers as Interior secretary a big deal. But it didn’t happen. Chances now seem slim anyone from the Pacific Northwest will be part of the Trump Cabinet.
Media reports indicate the Interior job was offered to freshman Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke, who has Oregon ties, playing for the Oregon Ducks football team as a lineman from 1980-83. There was no immediate confirmation Zinke accepted the nomination.
The last Northwestern to serve as a Cabinet secretary was former Washington Governor Gary Locke who served as Commerce secretary under President Obama from 2009 to 2011. The last Oregonian to hold a Cabinet post was Neil Goldschmidt who served as Transportation secretary from late 1979 to January 1981 when President Carter left office after losing the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.
According to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, McMorris Rodgers met with President-elect Donald Trump in Trump Tower on Monday. She called her meeting with the incoming president “exciting,” but remained mum about her nomination, which was first mentioned in media reports last week.
The Trump team has spread out the announcement of Cabinet appointments to capture maximum media coverage, with the biggest announcement this week of Rex Tillerson, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, as his choice for secretary of state. Trump also announced he will nominate former Texas Governor Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy.
McMorris Rodgers, 47, an Oregon native, has represented an Eastern Washington congressional district since 2005 and since 2013 has chaired the House Republican Conference. She is political conservative that gets high marks from groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Family Research Council and American Conservative Union and low marks from the League of Conservation Voters public employee unions and Americans for Democratic Action.
Word of her possible appointment sparked sharp criticism from the environmental community. League of Conservation President Gene Karpinski called her selection the equivalent of “for sale sign on our public lands.” The Sierra Club also blasted McMorris Rodgers for voting to open public lands to drilling, mining and logging.
Industry officials were more bullish on her nomination, saying the United States needs to be proactive in achieving energy independence as OPIC has agreed to limit supply and push up gas prices. McMorris Rodgers served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which will be chaired in the Congress by Oregon Congressman Greg Walden.
Politico reported that McMorris Rodgers, who is popular among congressional Republicans, was not Trump’s first choice for the Interior job. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Politico said, was his first choice, but her hopes faltered after a bad interview. The interview didn’t appear to be a problem for McMorris Rodgers, by the Trump team instead tabbed Zinke, a former Navy Seal commander and a likely challenger to Democratic Montana Senator Jon Tester in 2018.
A new Politico report published today said “top Trump aides weren’t sold” on McMorris Rodgers and encouraged a wider search. Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador reportedly was also interviewed for the job.
McMorris Rodgers' record in Congress of voting "to limit or repeal Obama administration climate and environment regulations, expand offshore drilling and stop Interior Department from regulating hydraulic fracturing in states with their own fracking rules” would seem to be the credentials Trump’s team wanted. She endorsed Trump and, despite criticizing him for his crude live-mic comments about women, didn’t withdraw her endorsement.