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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds to deliver GOP response to Biden’s first State of the Union speech

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds listens as former president Donald Trump speaks during a rally on Oct. 9, 2021, in Des Moines. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will deliver the Republican Party’s response to President Biden’s first State of the Union address next week, GOP leaders announced Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) praised first and foremost Reynolds’s permissive coronavirus policies in Iowa as an example of GOP leadership.

“While Washington Democrats fail working Americans, Republican governors are fighting and winning for families,” McConnell said. “Governor Kim Reynolds’ brave, bold, and successful leadership for Iowans has put her right at the front of that pack.”

Iowa was one of the few states not to issue stay-at-home orders at the beginning of the pandemic. Reynolds did not implement statewide mask mandates in Iowa until November 2020, then lifted them — along with many other coronavirus restrictions — last February, without explanation and earlier than many other states. Nearly 9,000 Iowans have died of the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, and the state saw outbreaks rip through its meat-processing plants at the peak of cases in 2020.

Like many other GOP officials, Reynolds also has railed against critical race theory, an academic framework for examining systemic racism typically used by legal scholars that Republicans have seized on to mean any education about racism or diversity training. Last June, Reynolds signed a law targeting the teaching of critical race theory in Iowa’s schools and government training programs, calling it “discriminatory indoctrination.”

“Reynolds represents what it means to lead with conviction and true faith in our fellow citizens,” McCarthy said. “She handled COVID by choosing freedom over lockdowns and personal responsibility over mandates — leading to real economic recovery from the pandemic. She kept kids in school and critical race theory out.”

Reynolds, the first female governor of Iowa, has served in the office since May 2017, and is up for reelection this year. In a statement, she accused the Biden administration of “governing from the far-left” and stifling “free speech, free thought and economic freedom.”

“Republican Governors across America are leading the charge in defending liberty and securing unmatched economic prosperity in our states,” Reynolds said. “The American people have had enough, but there is an alternative and that’s what I look forward to sharing on Tuesday evening.”

The State of the Union address on March 1 will be a scaled-down affair, a sign of ongoing precautions being taken because of the pandemic. All members of Congress but no guests are invited, and all attendees must report a negative PCR coronavirus test within one day of the speech, remain socially distanced and wear an approved KN95 or N95 face mask while in the U.S. Capitol.

The speech will be Biden’s first State of the Union address since he was elected. Last April, Biden addressed a joint session of Congress in an event that was even more restricted, owing to pandemic precautions and security concerns after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol. About 200 people were allowed in the House chamber last year during Biden’s joint address.

Reynolds will join a handful of other governors who have been chosen by their parties in recent years to deliver the official rebuttal to the State of the Union address. In 2020, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered the Democrats’ response to then-President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech, and in 2016, then-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley delivered the GOP’s rebuttal to then-President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union.