After President Joe Biden delivers his speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, Republicans will give a response of their own — but for the first time in more than a decade, the response to the president from the opposition party will not include one that is spoken in Spanish.
Republicans are opting to not issue a Spanish response to the president’s speech, breaking a modern tradition that has only been missed once since it began in the mid-2000s, according to reporting from CNN.
The Spanish response was started in 2004, when then-New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, spoke in response to former President George W. Bush’s State of the Union address that year. When former President Barack Obama took office in 2009, Republicans did not give a Spanish response, but began doing so in 2010 after his first State of the Union address.
Republicans continued to do a Spanish response throughout the remainder of Obama’s presidency, and Democrats kept the tradition going during former President Donald Trump’s tenure.
Delivering a Spanish response to the State of the Union or to any other speech before a joint session of Congress (Biden’s speech on Wednesday is not a State of the Union address) has significant importance, as around 43 million individuals living in the U.S. (roughly 13 percent of the populace) speak Spanish as their first language.
Instead of providing a Spanish alternative to Biden’s speech, Republicans will likely translate the speech that their planned responder, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, will give. In a statement he made earlier this month, Scott said his response to Biden would showcase his party’s “optimistic vision” for the country based on “empowering working families.”
There appears to be a wide disconnect, however, between Scott’s preview of his speech and how, exactly, Republicans view themselves as being a positive force for working-class Americans. The GOP stands against many of the proposals Democrats and Biden have pushed in recent months that would benefit working families, including Republicans’ steadfast opposition to the PRO Act that strengthens workers’ rights, and their opposition to the passage of a relief bill that was signed into law by Biden in March giving working families much-needed aid in the form of direct payments as well as tax credits to address the economic fallout from the pandemic.
A new bill, titled the American Families Plan, which would grant paid family leave to millions, make permanent expanded Child Tax Credits, and allow students to attend community colleges tuition-free, among other items, will likely be promoted heavily by Biden tonight. However, it’s equally likely that Republicans will also express strong opposition to those proposals as well.
An analysis of the bill and its chances of passage in Congress has some thinking that the GOP will “staunchly oppose” passing another large spending bill, particularly one that includes tax increases for wealthy Americans as a means of funding it.