Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

GOP Chair: Invite People to State of the Union ‘Left Behind’ by Obama

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CQ Roll Call File Photo/Douglas Graham)

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (CQ Roll Call File Photo/Douglas Graham)

A member’s “plus-one” to the State of the Union is one of the hottest tickets in town, and this year the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference is asking members to invite constituents with “compelling stories” to share.

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., who will also be delivering the official Republican counterpoint-address to President Barack Obama’s speech next Tuesday, has formally urged her colleagues to fill the House chamber with “American people who are being left behind by this President’s policies.”

“The stories of hardworking Americans will help us offer a compelling, articulate response to the State of the Union,” she explained in an email to GOP Congressional offices on Jan. 8.

“Whether it is a mom struggling to find a job, a senior worried about access to doctors, or a high school student with dreams to create the next Uber, the stories of hardworking Americans will help us offer a compelling, articulate response to the State of the Union,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Inviting guests to the State of the Union whose stories resonate, or contrast, with the themes of the president’s speech is par for the course. For leadership to encourage members to invite guests of a certain demographic, however, is more unusual.

And, for the first time, House Republicans are looking to harness the personal narratives of lawmakers’ guests and made them widely accessible to the public.

“Our job right now, and has been, to talk about the real problems Americans are facing every day,” said a Republican leadership aide. “We can’t be abstract about it.”

Another GOP leadership aide familiar with the initiative explained that staff with the House Republican Conference will collect, then disseminate, guests’ narratives. They’ll post anecdotes on Twitter and other social media platforms on the day of the speech and as Obama is delivering it, plus facilitate on-camera interviews with members and their constituents in the conference’s “war room” in the Cannon House Office Building.

McMorris Rodgers, who has finished the first year of her tenure as chairwoman of the de facto public relations department for the chamber’s members, has been trying to refine messaging and talking points within the conference, seeking to make inroads with nontraditional constituencies by facilitating a kindler, gentler GOP brand for the 21st century.

Asking members to be savvy about their State of the Union invites could help focus those members of the conference with whom her message has fallen on deaf ears, those who can’t always be trusted not to make foot-in-mouth statements.

At the last State of the Union, for instance, freshman Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, created a distraction over his controversial invitation of Ted Nugent.

The GOP leadership aide involved in the effort said there wasn’t intended to be an explicit chilling effect for members toying with the idea of bringing the Ted Nugents of the world to the State of the Union.

“Is it potentially a byproduct? Maybe,” the aide acknowledged.

The aide said that “dozens” of members have committed to participating in the experiment, while others appear not to have gotten the memo: Texas Republican Louie Gohmert is bringing along conservative talk show host Sean Hannity.

One House Republican, who told 218 he only recalled hearing a directive that they invite guests impacted by Obamacare, is bringing a student from his district.

A spokesman for another House GOP lawmaker said his boss is bringing his wife.

Read McMorris Rodgers’ full e-mail below:

Dear Republican Chiefs, Legislative Directors, Communicators, and Schedulers:

As part of House Republicans’ efforts to go on offense before, during, and after this year’s State of the Union, a key part of our response will focus on telling stories of the American people who are being left behind by this President’s policies. Our efforts surrounding this speech should not be a “rapid response,” but instead a real response.

This morning at Conference I announced an initiative to encourage Members to give their State of the Union guest ticket to people with compelling stories to share. Filling the House gallery with those we serve and who are committed to helping will provide a powerful contrast to the empty rhetoric of the President. Whether it is a mom struggling to find a job, a senior worried about access to doctors, or a high school student with dreams to create the next Uber, the stories of hardworking Americans will help us offer a compelling, articulate response to the State of the Union.

If your Member is interested in participating, please complete this brief survey and Conference will contact you with more details on how to make your efforts integral to our real response.

WHAT: Use Member Guest Tickets to Invite a Constituent to the State of the Union

WHEN: State of the Union, January 28

HOW: Complete this very brief survey

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Thanks in advance for all of your hard work,

Cathy McMorris Rodgers

Chair, House Republican Conference

  • Sally

    Oh do it. It is the GOP lack of a JOBS Bill that is hurting the country, not the Obama policies. Good grief. This party is either stupid, dense, or just callous..maybe all three. And ‘left behind?’ I guess they are no longer afraid to wear their Seven Mountains beliefs on their chests either. Keep it up GOP. We are not going to let you turn us into some Christian theocracy. Not now. Not ever.

  • Karen

    She voted to loot veteran pensions. How about the millions of military veterans show up and stare at the republican chicken hawks?

  • Bob Viering

    Like all the “new” Republican messages, it’s all talk and no action, no plan. And there won’t ever be any reasonable plan. It will be all big talk about how they will make everyone better off if only they vote Republican.

  • disqusux

    Hey, maybe one of the GOP’s “plus one” guests can give the fourth Republican SOTU rebuttal!

  • Amberteka

    Don;’t mention the real unemployment rate of 37% in the USA as you push another nation killing Corporate Backed Free Trade deal. Free to corporations. Not the USA.
    The hopes and prayers of Americans ride with Mike Lee. The Tea party Address. May every American who ever died for this nation, loved this nation, cherished thins nation…… with him Tuesday May he speak with the tongues of angels.
    The fate of America is not held by this RHINO Woman with her connections to Naval Command that builds all NAVY ships. She could be in line to be the next Diane Feinstein. Sen. Feinstein and her hubby became billionaires through military contracts.
    Mrs. Morris is at home in her Country Club as she is when speaking to the lower social classes during the SOTU address.
    For her and the rest of the County Club Set…things are just jammy. fine. Rosy.Could not be better.

    • AnthonyLook

      You’re killing me; stop. What ever you do in life, drop that job of yours and go into stand up comedy.

  • AnthonyLook

    Bring your Fox vetted(less) constituents to spew their exaggerated and distorted lies; so that we can have a field day debunking all the garbage propaganda that will prove (as before) to be nothing more than racism based bluster. WE DARE YOU.

  • left wing

    why bother wasting time to hear the liar in chief tell more lies and spread his hate.

  • Payton Manning

    In this related video we find a brief overview of the serious security risks of the Obamacare Website:

  • ExVariable

    Just like its marxist, socialist, and communist ancestors, today’s liberalism is a death cult.

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