* McMorris Rodgers attacks Obamacare
* Senators Paul and Lee also vie for Republican spotlight
By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON, Jan 28 Republicans in the U.S.
Congress responded in competing voices on Tuesday to President
Barack Obama's annual State of the Union address as various
wings of the party vied to advance their prescriptions for the
country's best way forward.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who was set to
deliver the sanctioned Republican response to Obama, will queue
up long-held party doctrine that "champions free markets and
trusts people to make their own decisions, not a government that
decides for you."
In excerpts of the speech to be delivered by the five-term
congresswoman from Washington state, McMorris Rodgers took a
broad swipe at "Obamacare," the 2010 landmark healthcare law
that Republicans have tried to repeal, delay or significantly
alter nearly 50 times since its enactment.
"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," McMorris Rodgers said of the
Affordable Care Act, which got off to a troubled start.
"No, we shouldn't go back to the way things were, but the
president's health care law is not working," she said.
Republican Senators Rand Paul of Kentucky and Mike Lee of
Utah, two favorites of the anti-Washington Tea Party movement,
were staging separate responses to Obama's speech.
Paul, a newcomer to the Senate who often is mentioned as a
possible 2016 presidential candidate, appealed to the
conservative base of the Republican Party.
"Economic growth will come when we lower taxes for
everyone," Paul said in excerpts of his speech. "Government
spending doesn't work."
McMorris Rodgers is relatively unknown nationally, even
though as No. 4 House Republican she is the highest-ranking
female member of her party in Congress and holds the distinction
of being the only person to give birth three times while serving
as a member of the House of Representatives.
Her moment in the limelight came as Republicans are eyeing
November's congressional elections and the 2016 race for the
White House as opportunities to close a "gender gap" that
contributed to their 2012 election losses.
That gender gap was on full display in 2012, when Obama
received 55 percent of women's votes, while failed Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney got 44 percent.
Even as Republicans tried to broaden their appeal with women
voters, they pushed through the House on Tuesday a partisan bill
that would make it more difficult for some women to get
One year ago, a USA Today/Gallup poll found that by a 53
percent-to-29 percent margin, Americans said they wanted the Roe
v. Wade Supreme Court decision granting abortion rights to be
kept in place.
A SECOND GAP
Attacking another gap - among Hispanic-American voters -
Republican Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida was set
to deliver a speech closely tracking McMorris Rodgers' but
spoken in Spanish.
In 2012, Obama won 71 percent of the Hispanic vote to
Romney's 27 percent. Since then, House Republicans have blocked
comprehensive immigration reform moves that are important to
Ros-Lehtinen, in her Spanish-language speech, was vague
about immigration reform's prospects in the House.
"It's also time to honor our history of legal immigration.
To do that, we have to fix our broken immigration system with a
permanent solution which ensures that our country will always
attract the best, the most brilliant and the hardest working
from all over the world," she said in a Reuters translation of
Like McMorris Rodgers, Lee also demanded a smaller federal
The rise of the Tea Party helped Republicans take control of
the House in the 2011, but some of its Senate candidates in the
past few elections have fallen short, leaving that chamber in
the hands of Democrats.
Nevertheless, the Tea Party's war against large federal
budget deficits set the agenda for Congress in 2011, 2012 and
2013, when Democrats and Republicans battled each other over
Tea Party proposals, Lee said in excerpts of his remarks,
"will put Americans back to work, not just by cutting big
government, but by fixing broken government."
Those excerpts made big promises. Tea Party initiatives, Lee
said, would promote "bigger citizens, stronger families and more