(Audrey Cheng/Medill)

Sen. Marco Rubio spoke in favor of smaller government, among a variety of other beliefs, without cracking a smile until the end of his speech. (Audrey Cheng/Medill)

WASHINGTON– Sen. Marco Rubio called for smaller government and less spending in the Republican Party’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night.

An unwavering and serious Rubio spoke directly into a camera about his experiences growing up as a first-generation American, often wiping sweat off of his forehead.

His remarks, delivered in English and Spanish minutes after Obama talked to a joint session of Congress, outlined the GOP plan for economic growth with the emphasis on strengthening the middle class and curbing government spending. The Florida senator recorded the Spanish translation prior to his speech, so Spanish-language networks could run it right after Obama’s address. Rubio’s bilingual approach was seen as continuing the Republican effort to reach out to America’s growing Hispanic population.

In his State of the Union speech, Obama said the deficit was reduced by more than $2.5 trillion during his first term. He credited spending cuts and raising taxes on the wealthiest one percent of Americans, part of a deal made in December.

Obama said the threatened sequestration in March would be detrimental to education, energy, medical initiatives and the recovering economy.

But Rubio said the president’s reluctance to significantly cut spending on his own will hurt the middle class, and might end up costing workers their raises, benefits and ultimately their jobs. He added that it will also hurt seniors, because the president’s plan “does nothing to save Medicare and Social Security.”

“Mr. President, I don’t oppose your plans because I want to protect the rich,” Rubio said. “I oppose your plans because I want to protect my neighbors.”

“We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future,” Paul said. “We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.’”

Rubio spoke of his neighbors growing up in Miami, many of whom were immigrants. He said in order to help the American economy grow, the government must institutionalize a legal immigration system to attract “the world’s best and brightest.”

“We need a responsible, permanent solution to the problem of those who are here illegally,” Rubio said. “But first, we must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws.”

Following Rubio’s speech, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., offered an unofficial response, representing the conservative tea party movement’s interests. He pushed Republicans to let the sequester hammer fall. The process, once considered unthinkable, calls for $1.5 trillion dollars in cuts to both domestic and defense spending over 10 years.

“Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating,” Paul said. “Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.”

Paul also urged his party to welcome immigrants.

Historically, State of the Union responses has been criticized for suffering in comparison to grandiose presidential addresses. In 2011, Rep. Paul Ryan delivered the Republican response and Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke for the conservative tea party movement.

Last year former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels was selected to represent the Republican Party and Herman Cain spoke for the tea party.