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Why Katie Britt Is Responding to Biden’s State of the Union

Senate Republicans Hold Capitol Hill Press Conference On Border Security

The junior senator from Alabama.
Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

It’s not unusual for the party that does not control the White House to choose a fresh face to respond to the president’s State of the Union address. And for Republicans, a party with a poor reputation for diversity, it’s even less unusual to ensure that this fresh face is female. Of the seven Republican SOTU responses dating back to Barack Obama’s second term, five were delivered by women (Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Joni Ernst, Nikki Haley, Kim Reynolds, and, last year, Sarah Huckabee Sanders) with still another coming from a person of color (Tim Scott). So freshman Alabama senator Katie Britt, who will respond to Joe Biden’s big speech next week, fits the mold.

Forty-two-year-old Britt is actually the youngest Republican woman ever to be elected to the Senate, and as House Speaker Mike Johnson noted in announcing her selection for the SOTU gig, she is the “only current Republican mom of school-age kids serving in the Senate.” So she provides an insta-contrast to the man to whom she will be responding. As the New York Times observed in words we will surely hear again, Britt “was born while Mr. Biden, 81, was serving his second term [in the Senate].”

Britt is also a smart cookie and a dexterous politician. A longtime staffer for the inveterate pork-barrel king Richard Shelby, whose seat she won when he retired in 2022, Britt is an established Swamp Creature and a favorite of corporate types (she has also been president of Alabama’s top business-lobbying group). Yet during her very first race for office, she positioned herself as enough of a maverick-y outsider to steal a Donald Trump endorsement from the crusty old wing nut Mo Brooks, one of the leading speakers at Trump’s infamous January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally. After getting the 45th president’s backing, Britt crushed Brooks in a June 2022 Republican primary runoff that sealed the election. She returned the favor by endorsing Trump’s presidential comeback in December. Yet she has also been part of the soon-to-be-former Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s inner circle.

For all I know, Britt has been lined up for this plum assignment for a while, but there’s an added bonus to her moment in the sun: She represents the state whose Supreme Court just shocked the world with its decision ruling that embryos are “children” and that IVF clinics that discard unnecessary frozen embryos may be subject to wrongful-death litigation. Like most Republicans in Alabama and nationally, Britt has been quick to defend IVF. But she has done so without ruffling the feathers of the anti-abortion movement, as her statement on the decision makes clear:

My goal is for Alabama to be the best place in the world to live, work, worship, and raise a family. Make no mistake — defending life and ensuring continued access to IVF services for loving parents are not mutually exclusive.

Britt is young, photogenic, and slick — and in the extremist mainstream of her party. She may not have that much control over the content of her party’s response to Biden next week, but it’s a good opportunity for her to make a high-profile national debut. And there are already whispers that she may ascend to Trump’s veep list. Not a bad start for someone who has been in public office for just over a year.


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