House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers delivered the official GOP rebuttal to the president's State of the Union address on Tuesday night in a bid to offer voters a new face for the party ahead of the midterm elections.
On Wednesday morning, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., predicted voters would see through that effort to appeal to minorities and women, and other constituencies traditionally unmoved by the Republican platform.
"I think the Republican Party knows full well they are not a very diverse party, whether you look down on the conventions or down from the gallery of the House of Representatives or the United States Senate," Hoyer told CQ Roll Call in a brief phone interview. "They are not a very diverse party, and when they get the opportunity to project some diversity, they want to take that." One of the reasons the Washington state lawmaker was chosen to give the nationally televised response was her compelling personal narrative and her track record in trying to use her leadership position to promote a more inclusive GOP — and because she is one of only 19 women in the Republican House.
"I think it's somewhat transparent because all you have to do is look at their convention and see the lack of diversity that they reflect," said Hoyer, who admitted he hadn't seen McMorris Rodgers' address. "But much more importantly, their policy is perceived by many in the country as not helpful or perhaps even hostile to those groups."
Hoyer pointed out that earlier in the day on Tuesday, House Republicans voted on a bill to ban taxpayer funding for abortion.
"They passed legislation during the day which is harmful to women and harmful to women's health, and then they have a woman give their response. I don't think that's a surprise," he said.
Hoyer was willing to concede that "Cathy McMorris Rodgers is a very pleasant person. ... She gives a good appearance [and] she speaks well."
He wouldn't, however, say she would be able to move reliably Democratic votes over to the Republican court in November.
"Every polling data shows that it's the Democratic brand and the Democratic camp that's very substantially ahead of Republicans among various different groups," Hoyer said.