Florida Senator Marco Rubio will deliver the Republican response to President Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced on Wednesday.
For the first time, the Republican response will be given in both English and Spanish. The Republican leaders praised Rubio as a "champion of growing the American middle class through limited government and free enterprise policies."
Rubio has gained widespread attention as one of four Republican members of a bipartisan group of senators ("The Gang of 8") working on immigration reform. Obama has promised to make comprehensive immigration reform a priority and the topic is sure to feature prominently in his address.
Boehner and McConnell avoided any mention of immigration reform in their statement, but the majority leader said Rubio's upbringing as the son of immigrants makes him uniquely suited for the job.
"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," McConnell said. "He was a natural choice to deliver the Republicans' alternative to the administration's reliance on government and debt."
Rubio was elected to the Senate in 2010. He is one of three Latinos – Senators Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are the other two – in the upper chamber. Delivering the Republican response will give Rubio a chance to speak on a widely watched national stage. The senator has been touted as a potential Republican presidential nominee in 2016.
"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," Rubio said in a statement. "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."