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McMorris Rodgers tests GOP response to ‘war on women’ charge

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers at the Republican convention in 2012. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
File: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash)  (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

As Democrats fired up the “war on women” campaign again this week, a top ranking woman in the Republican-majority House tested the GOP message to battle the allegation in the midterm election campaign.

“We are starting to hear this drumbeat again from the Democrats suggesting that the Republicans are waging a war on women,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said in a speech Friday afternoon to the Republican National Committee “Taking Back the Future” conference at a Washington, D.C. hotel. “As you all know, there’s no truth to it.”

McMorris Rogers, the fourth ranking Republican in the House, said in order to fight the Democratic message, GOP women must emphasize the message of “empowerment” and individual freedom instead of expanding government.

“We need to make sure everyone in this country understands, the Republican vision is one that is about is about empowering you, the belief that you will make better decisions for yourself…than the federal government ever will,” she said.

McMorris Rodgers did not mention the latest Democratic salvo about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby case decision specifically, but referred to the “Life of Julia” interactive infographic used by the Obama campaign during the 2012 election.

The graphic illustrated how a woman can use government policies to help her throughout her life – a message McMorris Rodgers said amounted to government dependence.

“Why would smart, independent women, who have worked so hard to achieve new levels and leadership in every field… want to return to that kind of a government?” McMorris Rodgers asked.

Obama defeated former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 percentage points among women in 2012. Over the past two years, the GOP has launched multiple programs to engage women voters to try to close that gender gap.

“The war on women stuff is something that worked last cycle,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Last time around there were a lot of false narratives that were created.”

The latest back and forth about the “war” was sparked by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in favor of craft supply retailer Hobby Lobby that said privately-held companies do not have to offer their employees contraceptive coverage that conflicts with the owners’ religious beliefs.

Senate Democrats pushed back against the ruling this week by filing a bill aimed at overturning the decision. The “Not My Boss’s Business Act” would require that employers follow the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, regardless of their religious objections.

“Contraception has always been between a woman, her partner, her doctor and her faith,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “Those five justices decided that a woman’s boss also has a say.”

Several Democratic groups also weighed in, placing the blame for the Supreme Court decision squarely with Republicans.

“We’re taking note of every single candidate who applauded the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision to allow bosses to deny female employees birth control coverage,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, wrote in a memo. “In the key races identified below – and in others -we plan to ensure that women voters know exactly what’s at stake and who would block access to contraceptive care.”

EMILY’s List – a group that supports female Democratic women who are for abortion rights – announced the launch of a campaign “to guide Republicans on how to avoid complete failure when reaching out to women voters.”

“From blocking women’s access to healthcare and birth control to working against equal pay for women to opposing an increase in the minimum wage, Republicans are totally out of step with American women. We’re here to help,” said Jess McIntosh, Communications Director at EMILY’s List.

Kukowski dismissed the narrative that Republicans were trying to ban contraception.

“Hobby Lobby is still providing contraception, 16 different kinds of contraception,” she said. “We have to be out there talking to voters and being able to fight back against that narrative instead of allowing that narrative to be shaped for us.”

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