House GOP conference chair backs Trump, isolating Paul Ryan


WASHINGTON >> Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, announced her support for Donald Trump's presidential campaign late Wednesday, leaving House Speaker Paul D. Ryan as the last major GOP leader on Capitol Hill not to back Trump.

McMorris Rodgers, who is the highest-ranking woman in the Republican congressional leadership, disclosed in a late-night Facebook post that she had cast an absentee ballot for Trump. But she made clear she did it grudgingly.

"Did I cast my ballot with enthusiasm?" she wrote. "Not exactly — I'm still getting to know Mr. Trump like so many others. We had a positive first meeting last week. Since then, I've continued the conversation with his team to better understand how he plans to lead moving forward and unite the country around a forward-looking, conservative policy agenda. I'm encouraged so far and look forward to learning more."

McMorris Rodgers, who is the mother of a disabled child, said she had "concerns about the comments he made in the past and on the campaign trail this year about women; people with disabilities; and those from different backgrounds."

"I vehemently disagree with such statements. They are wrong in a Presidential campaign; in our workplaces; in our homes; and anywhere else. I've called him out before, and I won't be shy if he does it again because he owes it to our party and our country to treat everyone respectfully and to build an inclusive coalition," she wrote.

But, she added, "Mr. Trump won millions of supporters by speaking his mind honestly; calling out the dysfunction in Washington, DC; and talking outside the politically correct box. In the months ahead, he will have to earn the Presidency by demonstrating that he has the temperament for the job and plans to empower every American to pursue a future of opportunity and freedom."

McMorris Rodgers spoke nearly a week after she joined Ryan and other House GOP leaders in a private meeting with Trump at Republican National Committee headquarters. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., had previously backed Trump; Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have said they will support Trump as nominee.

Ryan said afterward that he was "encouraged" by the meeting but added: "This is a process. It takes a little time. You don't put it together in 45 minutes."

Asked about the process on Tuesday, Ryan declined to comment on its progress: "I'm focused on policies and principles and unifying our party. We just began this process. It is well under way. And that's what we are focused on."


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