Florida Sen. Marco Rubio will deliver the Republican response - in English and Spanish - to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday.
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky announced Rubio’s selec tion on Wednesday.
“Marco Rubio is one of our party’s most dynamic and inspiring leaders,” Boehner said in a statement with McConnell. “He carries our party’s banner of freedom, opportunity and prosperity in a way few others can.
“His family’s story is a testament to the promise and greatness of America,” the Ohio Republican added. “He’ll deliver a GOP address that speaks from the heart to the hopes and dreams of the middle class; to our party’s commitment to life and liberty; and to the unlimited potential of America when government is limited and effective.”
Rubio’s response will mark the first time the GOP response has been spoken in Spanish.
The decision to name Rubio - the son of Cuban immigrants - to respond to Obama’s address comes as the GOP seeks to broaden its base with Hispanics.
The GOP took a drubbing in the 2012 presidential election, as 71 percent of Hispanics voted to re-elect President Barack Obama. They were critical to Obama victories in three key battleground states - Florida, Nevada and Colorado - according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
Only 27 percent of Hispanics voted for the GOP candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, according to Pew. Latinos comprise about 10 percent of the electorate, Pew says.
Since the election, Rubio’s profile has been steadily rising - furthering his stature as one of the nation’s best-known Hispanic leaders and an oft-mentioned candidate for president in 2016. In Congress, the first-term senator sits on both the Senate Intelligence and the Foreign Relations committees.
In recent months, Rubio has taken the lead in steering the GOP’s efforts toward a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would give more than 12 million illegals currently in the United States legal status.
Rubio introduced his own plan last month, and is part of the nonpartisan “Group of Eight” senators - four Republicans and four Democrats - who introduced a similar effort, also last month.
“Legal immigration is good for America,” Rubio told Newsmax in an exclusive interview in January. “It’s been good for us throughout our history - and it’s important for our future.”
McConnell said on Wednesday that he expected Rubio’s response to “contrast the Republican approach to the challenges we face with President Obama’s vision of an ever-bigger government and the higher taxes that would be needed to pay for it.
“Marco’s own experience as the child of immigrants has always informed his belief in limited government and free enterprise, which is why he has helped lead the fight against out-of-control spending and job-destroying tax hikes that continue to hold our economy back and stifle opportunity for millions.
“He was a natural choice to deliver the Republicans’ alternative to the administration’s reliance on government and debt,” McConnell said.
For his part, Rubio said, “I’m honored to have this opportunity to discuss how limited government and free enterprise have helped make my family’s dreams come true in America. Limited government and free enterprise are the very foundation of what makes America special and separates us from the world - particularly through our strong middle class.
“I look forward to laying out the Republican case of how our ideas can help people close the gap between their dreams and the opportunities to realize them.”
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