Underscoring themes of family, personal empowerment, and decision-making over "a government that decides for you," Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers offered an alternate Republican version of the "no dream is too big" promise in the official rebuttal to President Obama's State of the Union address.
The highest-ranking House Republican woman — and the mother of three young children, all born during her time in Congress — McMorris Rodgers, 44, was tapped to deliver on national TV a fresh contrast to the president's message. The selection of the Washington state lawmaker also provided pushback to portrayals of a political party at war with women.
And McMorris Rodgers's performance went beyond simply laying out general elements of a GOP agenda that, she stressed, would better tackle the nation's jobless rates "without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape," and would improve education, reduce energy costs, and cut taxes.
She touched on some highly personal areas as well. As recently as November, she and her husband, Brian Rodgers, delivered their third child. But it was their first child — Cole, born in 2007 with Down syndrome — that she referenced in a criticism of the Affordable Care Act.
"Cole and his sisters, Grace and Brynn, have only made me more determined to see the potential in every human life — that whether we are born with an extra 21st chromosome or without a dollar to our name — we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential," she said.
"Republicans believe health care choices should be yours, not the government's," she said. "And that whether you're a boy with Down syndrome or a woman with breast cancer, you can find coverage and a doctor who will treat you."
And her efforts to deliver a gentler view of Republicans and their agenda went beyond that. For instance, the Republican Conference chair (the fourth-highest elected post in the House GOP caucus) also talked about what she said were "more important moments" than those occurring in the Oval Office or the House chamber.
"They're in your homes," she said. "Kissing your kids good night. Figuring out how to pay the bills. Getting ready for tomorrow's doctor's visit. Waiting to hear from those you love serving in Afghanistan, or searching for that big job interview....
"Tonight the president made more promises that sound good, but won't solve the problems actually facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that too," McMorris Rodgers said. "But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen."
Against this backdrop, she said, the GOP's vision is one that empowers and trusts people to make their own decisions, "not a government that decides for you," and that it is Republicans who are working to close the "gap we all face: between where you are and where you want to be."