Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) delivered an assured performance Tuesday night as she contrasted President Obama's State of the Union address with the GOP's “hopeful” vision for the nation.
"Tonight I'd like to share a more hopeful, Republican vision — one that empowers you, not the government," said Rodgers, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. "It's one that champions free markets and trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that decides for you."
Speaking from a couch in a softly lit room, she gave a confident address that emphasized her three children and hit on broad themes to strike a contrast with Obama.
"Tonight the president made more promises that sound good, but won't actually solve the problems actually facing Americans," she said. "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."
The GOP rebuttal has been a fraught assignment in recent years. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) famously lunged for a drink of water during his rebuttal last year, and it became the enduring image of his speech.
But there was nothing awkward about the performance of McMorris Rodgers, who is emerging as an important surrogate for House Republicans as they battle back against Democratic charges that they are waging a "war on women."
The congresswoman downplayed Obama's speech as one filled with promises of what the government can deliver to its citizens and said it’s a mindset that Republicans don't share.
"The president talks a lot about income inequality," she said. "But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality. And with this administration's policies, that gap has become far too wide."
She added that the GOP's plans would not involve "more spending, government bailouts and red tape."
She highlighted school choice and immigration, but on the latter issue said Republicans are working on a step-by-step solution to secure the border and make sure talented immigrants can continue to find their way to the United States.
The congresswoman criticized ObamaCare as a one-size-fits-all government solution that has failed to meet its promises of broader coverage and lower costs.
"Not long ago I got a letter from Bette in Spokane, [Wash.], who hoped the president's healthcare law would save her money but found out instead that her premiums were going up nearly $700 a month," she said. "No, we shouldn't go back to the way things were, but this law is not working. Republicans believe healthcare choices should be yours, not the government."
She repeatedly stressed the role of everyday Americans over what politicians are doing in Washington.
"The most important moments right now aren't happening here. 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."
Rep. Lynn Jenkins, a Republican from Kansas, commended McMorris Rodgers for an "inspiring" speech.
"Congratulations ... on delivering a truly inspiring personal message this evening that transcended politics," Jenkins wrote on Twitter.