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UPDATE: After this article was published, the Spokesman-Review’s editorial page editor, Bert Caldwell, confirmed Associate Editor Gary Crooks’ account of the editorial board’s interview with Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. Caldwell also confirmed that he was the one who posed the question that prompted the congresswoman’s controversial response.
Two members of the editorial staff of Spokane’s Spokesman-Review contend they heard House Republican leader Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington concede that Obamacare is here to stay, standing by their newspaper’s headline, which drew national attention because it was interpreted by many Republicans as a sign the party leadership was prepared to give up trying to repeal the law.
McMorris Rodgers spokesman Nate Hodson had said in a statement Monday that the paper’s headline – “McMorris Rodgers says ACA likely to stay”– was “not an accurate or representative portrayal of what the congresswoman said in the interview.”
But Spokesman-Review Associate Editor Gary Crooks told WND the headline reflects an answer the congresswoman gave to a direct question in the interview with the editorial board Thursday. His account is affirmed by the writer of the story, city reporter Kip Hill.
Asked by WND in an email to respond to the claim, Hodson did not dispute Crooks’ account but said the headline “was misconstrued by national media outlets to redefine the congresswoman’s long-standing position on a major issue to which she remains committed – the full repeal of Obamacare.”
“As most headlines are unable to accomplish, it did not reflect the major substance of the interview about her view that the president’s health-care law is fundamentally flawed, the need to protect the people who are being negatively impacted by it, nor the congresswoman’s long-standing commitment to repeal Obamacare,” Hodson said.
Crooks told WND he was trying to contact McMorris Rodgers’ office to find out why they were disputing the headline, but he had not received a response.
He explained in a phone interview that his paper had run a story that day reporting that more than 600,000 Washington state residents had signed up for Obamacare.
Noting the significant number of signups, Editorial Page Editor Bert Caldwell asked the congresswoman, according to Crooks, “Isn’t this law here to stay?’
“And she said,” Crooks recalled, “‘Probably.'”
Crooks clarified that there was no quote of her stating Obamacare is “here to stay,” because “that was part of the question.”
“But her response was, ‘Probably.'”
McMorris Rodgers, the No. 4 ranking Republican in the House, is chair of the House Republican Conference. She’s the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress and was chosen to give the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in January.
Acceptance might help win endorsement
Crooks told WND he didn’t understand why many Republican Party members interpreted her reported comments as a surrender to Democrats.
“If I say that the Mariners aren’t going to win the pennant, it doesn’t mean I want them to lose the pennant. I’m making a prediction,” he said.
As WND reported, Republican strategist Karl Rove said he was not pleased with the report when he heard about it Sunday, saying it sounded like the congresswoman was surrendering in the fight to overturn Obamacare.
Crooks noted that McMorris Rodgers, after affirming Obamacare probably was here to stay, went on to say that the debate isn’t over, and she listed parts of the law she would like to see reformed.
The Spokesman-Review endorsed McMorris Rodgers in the 2012 election, and WND asked Crooks whether her apparent concession to the editorial board that Obamacare won’t be repealed would help her win the paper’s endorsement this year.
“If she means it, it would,” he said. “Our position is that the fight is futile. But if she’s going to say that she didn’t say it, I don’t know how that would play out.”
McMorris Rodgers has been part of the Republican leadership in the House that has voted multiple times to repeal parts or all of Barack Obama’s signature health care law. GOP members have said the law is unworkable, will increase costs for some and force others into inadequate coverage or plans they don’t want. Others have said it must be repealed in its entirety, with new legislation to provide reforms in health care such as requirements to cover pre-existing conditions.
The Spokesman-Review reported McMorris Rodgers was critical of Obamacare but said the framework established by the law likely will persist and reforms should take place within its structure.
“It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” she said, as reported in the Washington state paper. Consumers should have more choice for their coverage, and Democrats should abandon the idea that everyone will enroll because of the mandate, McMorris Rodgers added.
The congresswoman also said that the 85 percent of enrollees who received Medicaid coverage is a sign the program is not sustainable and many will receive subpar care.
“You’re seeing where they’ve had to reduce programs for the very people it’s meant to help,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Somebody’s going to have to pay the bill.”