Cathy McMorris Rodgers was just elected by her colleagues to lead the House Republican Conference, a job once held by Dick Cheney, Jack Kemp, and more recently, House Speaker John Boehner. The Conference is the primary line of communication on policy issues among all the House Republicans, who are the key to keeping a check on the Democrats in the White House and the Senate. As the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, she’s been a key spokesperson in the debate over the Violence Against Women Act and the HHS contraception mandate. She’s strongly pro-life, and her oldest child has Down syndrome. She’s been responsible for recruiting dozens of other women with young children to run for office.
McMorris Rodgers’s style is cautious and polite, and while she’s a conservative, she’s no extremist. The congresswoman from Washington state is a former small-business owner, and is married to a 26-year Navy veteran. Because she’s a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, she’ll be a key player in how the federal government will implement healthcare reform and how energy regulations will impact small businesses in the new year. As the highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress, she really softens up the image of the House Republicans.