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Republicans tout 'opportunity' in response to Obama address

The top-ranking Republican woman in Congress sought to offer a “more hopeful” vision for the country that closes America's “opportunity inequality” gap during her party’s official response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers delivers the sanctioned Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union speech.

“Our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become,” said Washington Republican Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. “That is the gap Republicans are working to close. It’s the gap we all face, between where you are and where you want to be.”

The fourth-highest ranking Republican in the House spent the week leading up to the State of the Union showcasing her family and her role as a mother. An introductory video features the mother of three at home caring for her eldest son, Cole, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome shortly after his birth in 2007.

"Whether we are born with an extra twenty-first chromosome or without a dollar to our name – we are not defined by our limits, but by our potential,” she said Tuesday. “Because our mission – not only as Republicans, but as Americans, is to once again to ensure that we are not bound by where we come from, but empowered by what we can become.

It’s no secret that Republicans have been puzzling over how best to reach out to female voters, a group which backed Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 55 percent to 44 percent in 2012. The GOP has not chosen a female to respond to the State of the Union since 1995, and McMorris Rogers’ selection comes as opponents accuse the party of waging a “war on women” over issues like advancing more restrictive abortion laws across the country.

Earlier Tuesday the House of Representatives passed legislation that would permanently prohibit federal funds from being used to fund nearly all abortions.

While McMorris Rodgers slammed the president for health care reform and economic policies she said “are making people's lives harder,” she largely used gentler rhetoric than has characterized Washington in recent years. 

McMorris Rodger’s, whose rise in to party leadership is in part to her strong conservative views, focused her response largely on economic opportunity, touting her own rise from the McDonald’s drive-thru to her swearing in as a member of Congress.

“The president talks a lot about income inequality. But the real gap we face today is one of opportunity inequality…Republicans have plans to close the gap. Plans that focus on jobs first without more spending, government bailouts, and red tape,” she said.

And McMorris Rodgers is not the only Republican to respond to the president’s speech. Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen gave the Spanish response, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul recorded a rebuttal posted on social media, and Utah Sen. Mike Lee delivered a response sponsored by the Tea Party Express.

Lee called the president's health care law an "inequality Godzilla" and said the tea party goal should be "an America where everyone has a fair chance to pursue happiness and find it." 

"That is what it looks like when protest turns into reform,” Lee added.