If President Obama really wants to see a better America, he should focus on building a thriving middle class rather than empowering the government.
That’s the message from Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who gave the GOP’s official response to President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday evening and emphasized her own family’s story.
Rodgers cared for her two-month-old baby while preparing her speech. She posted a photo of her baby girl, Brynn Catherine, on Instagram Friday as she practiced. Rodger also has another daughter, Grace, and son, Cole, who was born with Down syndrome in 2007.
“The most important moments right now aren’t happening here,” she said in the response to Obama’s address. “They’re not in the Oval Office or in the House Chamber. They’re in your homes. Kissing your kids goodnight. 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. After all, ‘We the People’ have been the foundation of America since her earliest days – people from all walks of life, and from all corners of the world – people who come to America because here, no challenge is too great and no dream too big.”
Rodgers said: “Tonight, Obama gave more promises that sound good but won’t actually solve the problems facing Americans. We want you to have a better life. The president wants that, too. But we part ways when it comes to how to make that happen.”
She offered “a more hopeful, Republican vision” than Obama had to offer – “one that empowers you, not the government.”
“It’s one that champions free markets – and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you,” she said. “It helps working families rise above the limits of poverty and protects our most vulnerable. And it’s one where Washington plays by the same rules that you do. It’s a vision that is fair and offers the promise of a better future for every American.”
According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 28 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the right direction and 71 percent are dissatisfied with the current condition of the economy.
President Obama speaks frequently about income inequality, Rodgers said.
“The real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality,” she argued. “With this administration’s policies, that gap has become far too wide. We see this gap growing every single day. We see it in our neighbors who are struggling to find jobs, a husband who’s now working just part time, a child who drops out of college because she can’t afford tuition or parents who are outliving their life savings.”
She lamented, “Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one. Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the president’s policies are making people’s lives harder.
“Republicans have plans to close the gap. Plans that will focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts and red tape. Every day, we’re working to expand our economy, one manufacturing job, nursing degree and small business at a time. We have plans to improve our education and training systems so you have the choice to determine where your kids go to school so college is affordable and skills training is modernized.”
Rodgers said it’s time for America to honor its history of legal immigration.
“We’re working on a step-by-step solution to immigration reform by first securing our borders and making sure America will always attract the best, brightest and hardest working people from around the world,” she said. “And with too many Americans living paycheck to paycheck, we have solutions to help you take home more of your pay through lower taxes, cheaper energy costs and affordable health care.”
As for the Affordable Care Act, Rodgers highlighted some of the pitfalls of the president’s signature health law.
“We’ve all talked to too many people who have received cancellation notices they didn’t expect or who can no longer see the doctors they always have,” she said. “No, we shouldn’t go back to the way things were, but the president’s health-care law is not working.
“Republicans believe health-care choices should be yours, not the government’s. 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.”
She added: “As Republicans, we advance these plans every day because we believe in a government that trusts people and doesn’t limit where you finish because of where you started. That is what we stand for – for an America that is every bit as compassionate as it is exceptional. Our plan is one that dreams big for everyone and turns its back on no one. …
“The president said many things tonight, but now I ask him to listen to you – for the true state of the union lies in your heart and in your home.”
Rodgers is the fourth highest House GOP leader, highest ranking Republican woman in the House and the first woman to deliver a GOP response in nearly 15 years. She serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell praised Rodger’s “alternative approach to the president’s plans to grow an already enormous federal bureaucracy.”
McConnell called her “a strong advocate of empowering citizens rather than just the federal government,” saying, “Her experience, hard work and commitment to family provide an example that Americans outside the halls of Congress understand.”
See Rodger’s personal story below: