Sen. Katie Britt will stride onto the national stage to deliver GOP’s State of the Union response

FILE - Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala.,, speaks during a news conference on the border, Feb. 15, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Britt will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union speech on Thursday, March 7, 2024. She is the youngest female senator and the first woman elected to the Senate from Alabama. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

FILE – Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala.,, speaks during a news conference on the border, Feb. 15, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Britt will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Thursday, March 7, 2024. She is the youngest female senator and the first woman elected to the Senate from Alabama. (AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two days after an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that threatened fertility clinics in the state, Sen. Katie Britt placed a call to former President Donald Trump.

Britt wanted Trump, then on a plane headed to South Carolina, to understand the significance of what had happened. The court’s ruling that frozen embryos can be considered children under state law was already blocking access to in vitro fertilization at clinics across the state. Britt made the argument to Trump that the practice should be embraced by the Republican Party — it is pro-life and pro-family, she said.

Within hours of the conversation, Trump issued a statement that said he would “strongly support the availability of IVF,” and he called on lawmakers in Alabama to preserve access to the treatment.

“I got a call from Katie Britt, a very wonderful young senator in Alabama,” Trump recalled in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity several days later. “And I said, we want that. We want people to help. We’re on the side of women.”

After only a year in the Senate, Brit is wielding her influence — and her blend of experience as a former congressional staffer and mother — to carve out a unique role in the party. As the youngest female senator, she represents a new generation of Republicans in a volatile political era. And the party is now amplifying her voice, entrusting Britt to deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on Thursday evening.

“At this decisive moment in our country’s history, it’s time for the next generation to step up and preserve the American Dream for our children and our grandchildren,” Britt said in a statement with congressional leaders announcing that she would give the response.

Britt, 42, was elected to the Senate in 2022 after a bruising primary campaign in which Trump rescinded his endorsement of former Republican Rep. Mo Brooks and switched to backing Britt. On the campaign trail, Britt often touted her strong Christian faith and used the slogan “Alabama First,” echoing Trump’s “America First” rhetoric.

After she was elected, Britt said she would be a “mama on a mission” to get things done in Washington.

Soon after she was sworn in, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell tapped Britt to be one of several advisers who sit in on weekly leadership meetings. At the time, she said she believed she brought a critical perspective that was often missing in Washington, not only because of her age but also as the only Republican senator who is a mother of school-age children.

Announcing last week that Britt would give the party response, McConnell called Britt “an unapologetic optimist” and said she “wasted no time in becoming a leading voice.”

In her year in office, Britt has made immigration one of her key issues, participating in early negotiations on a Senate border deal before dropping out and eventually voting against it. She has also worked on issues with a family focus, co-authoring a bipartisan bill aimed at protecting children online.

She joined a delegation of senators visiting Israel shortly after the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas where she spoke emotionally and forcefully at a press conference, wearing a large diamond cross that rarely leaves her neck: “Make no mistake, I believe that people of all faiths can exist in peace and prosperity,” she said. “But I do not believe that good can exist with evil.”

Britt has been a reliably conservative vote, rarely wavering from the party line, or Trump, on key issues. But her approach has differed from many of the other new Republican senators — all men — who arrived at the same time last year and joined with the right flank of the GOP conference in criticizing McConnell’s leadership. Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, for example, has been outspoken in his opposition to Ukraine aid and traveled to Munich earlier this month to share that perspective with European allies.

Britt has so far preferred to operate more on the inside, forming relationships with colleagues behind the scenes and waiting to make her first speech on the Senate floor.

She has also purposefully reached across the aisle, becoming close with freshmen Democratic Sens. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania and Peter Welch of Vermont. The three senators often eat dinner together, and Britt refers to them as her friends.

Britt became so close to Fetterman at the beginning of last year that she was one of the only people that the Democrat invited to visit him in the hospital after he checked himself in to be treated for depression. She and her husband, former NFL football player Wesley Britt, still socialize with Fetterman and his wife. And when the towering Pennsylvania senator sees Britt in the hallways, he often loudly calls out his nickname for her: “Alabama!”

Welch says he has two feelings about Britt being picked to give the GOP response. “One, I feel very good for her, and I think she’ll do a great job,” Welch said. “And I’m very disappointed that the Republicans made such a smart decision.”

Britt has also been clear that she sees senior women senators as her role models, regardless of party. In the hours after the death of California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat, she exchanged texts with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and asked if she could sit with the other women senators as they paid tribute to Feinstein on the Senate floor that morning. She said in one text that Feinstein, like Murray, had blazed a trail for her — a sentiment that Murray later said brought her to tears.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Appropriations panel, said that she’s thrilled to have Britt representing the party. “She is a refreshing breath of fresh air and brings energy and a different perspective to our caucus, which I think is really important,” Collins said.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, a Democrat who leads the Appropriations Committee’s homeland security subcommittee with Britt, says, “She’s an all-star and Republicans know it.”

Murphy, who has participated in bipartisan negotiations on several issues, said he’s hopeful that Britt is “going to end up being one of the people that ends up trying to help make the Senate a place that works.”

Britt’s relationships across the aisle are in the mold of her predecessor and former boss, Sen. Richard Shelby, who was the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Committee. But her bipartisanship rarely extends to her voting record. She voted in committee against the homeland security spending bill that she helped negotiate, saying that it didn’t do enough to stem migration at the southern U.S. border.

She has also been a conservative voice in her home state, frequently criticizing Biden and lamenting a country she has said she no longer recognizes. In December, she endorsed Trump for the presidency.

She is expected to continue that theme in Thursday’s response.

“The Republican Party is the party of hardworking parents and families, and I’m looking forward to putting this critical perspective front and center,” she said in the announcement. “There is no doubt that President Biden’s failed presidency has made America weaker and more vulnerable at every turn.”

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Associated Press writers Stephen Groves in Washington and Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Ala. contributed to this report.

AP Politics

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