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Inside the Republican response

Last year, Republicans yelled and booed during President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address. Here’s how the party is approaching the speech in 2024.

The GOP leadership: Typically, the person tasked with giving the official GOP response is viewed as an effective communicator and a rising star within the party.

This time around, it’s Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.). As a member of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership team and an appropriator, Britt fits this bill. A freshman, she’s also well-respected among Democrats and has several close cross-aisle friendships.

Every year, there are questions about the utility of the SOTU response, and whether it actually can catapult the person chosen to deliver it. Sometimes it’s disastrous. Other times it works. Look at 2021, for instance, when Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) gave the GOP response and became a national figure.

In our conversations with Britt, she emphasized the need for Republicans to focus more on the plight of younger Americans. Britt, who’s only 42 years old, nodded to this by saying it was time for the “next generation” to lead the way.

“President Biden is out of touch and off the pace, and the consequences are endangering America’s future,” Britt told us. “The Republican Party is the party of hardworking parents and families, and I’m looking forward to sharing our positive vision to secure the American Dream for generations to come.”

The pragmatists: Weeks after Republicans rejected a bipartisan border bill, GOP centrists told us time and again they want to hear Biden address the chaos at the southern border.

“Obviously border security is the number one issue for the country, as it is for my district,” Rep. Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.), a member in a Biden-won seat, told us. “So it seems he needs to do something on that. Will he, or will it be lip service?”

Biden is sure to chide Republicans for heeding the call of former President Donald Trump and killing the Senate package. But that isn’t dissuading Republicans from demanding action.

“I want to hear that he’s going to enforce the law on the border. Bottom line,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said.

A group of House Republicans and Democratic centrists introduced a compromise bill pairing foreign aid with border security. One of the package’s cosponsors, Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-Ore.), said she wants the president to mention that bill as a way to break the logjam.

The flamethrowers: Some House Freedom Caucus members told us they were on the fence about even attending the speech. A couple of hardliners also made snarky comments about Biden’s mental acuity.

“He can’t read from a teleprompter,” Rep. Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) told us.

Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.), who floated that the GOP should disinvite Biden to the Hill, said “of course” he was planning to attend, though he has low expectations. “I expect him to come and blame all the problems that he’s created on other people,” Perry added.

Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) noted that if House conservatives do show up, Biden can expect some disruption during his speech.

“Does a Baptist church got a bus?” Burchett responded when we asked about this.

— Andrew Desiderio, Max Cohen and Mica Soellner

Presented by The Coalition to Project American Jobs

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.