Republicans Respond To Obama With A Soft-Focus Human Interest Speech

WASHINGTON -- A top Republican lawmaker on Tuesday made a vague pledge that Congress will work toward immigration reform this year, in the party's official response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.

"It’s time to honor our history of legal immigration," said Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), speaking from her office in the Capitol. "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 from around the world."

McMorris Rodgers, the GOP's fourth-ranking member in the House, did not say whether an immigration reform bill should or would be passed by the chamber this year. And other than the single mention of immigration reform, her speech was largely an attempt to present a humanizing side of the GOP, "a more hopeful Republican vision."

The 44-year-old mother of three, who gave birth to her third child in November, talked at length about her own biography: She worked at a McDonald's drive-through in college, she got up before dawn to pick apples on her family's orchard, she was in the 4H Club, she's married to a retired Navy commander. The YouTube livestream of her speech featured a picture of McMorris Rodgers' family when she mentioned her husband and children.

She also shared that her oldest child, Cole, who is 6, has Down syndrome, and emphasized that she and her husband saw his birth as "a gift from God."

"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," McMorris Rodgers said.

Beyond that, her speech was largely a string of generalized bromides about how Republicans want to "empower people, not politicians."

But for a party that has lost support among women voters in the last few elections -- and is viewed by a good number of voters as the party of old white men -- such a soft-focus human interest speech was just what the GOP wanted.