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GOP taps top-ranking woman to deliver SOTU response

The highest-ranking Republican woman in Congress will deliver the party's official response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address on Tuesday.

Washington Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the chair of the Republican conference and a mother of three (her most recent child having been born late last year), has been tapped to deliver the high-profile speech. 

McMorris Rodgers's position as head of the GOP conference makes her the fourth-ranking Republican in the House; the Senate GOP leadership consists only of men. She'll be the first woman to deliver the Republican response to a Democratic president's State of the Union address since Maine Sen. Susan Collins co-delivered the 2000 response with then-Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn.

The GOP has turned toward women within the party to help improve a gender gap from which the party suffered during the 2012 presidential election, especially as some high-profile Republicans made uncouth remarks about abortion rights and rape. It's an issue with which the GOP continues to wrestle: former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, R, suggested Thursday that Democrats want women to believe they need to rely on government support for birth control to "control their libidos."

The State of the Union response is considered an honor for rising stars in either party in opposition to a sitting president, though the platform can also be fraught with risk. Just last year, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio drew guffaws for hurriedly grasping for a much-needed drink of water during his official response to the president's speech.