A group of conservative House Republicans introduced a comprehensive job-creation bill Wednesday designed to ease federal regulations and weaken organized labor's influence — longstanding GOP bugaboos the party says have hurt the economy.
The Republican Study Committee measure also aims to spur domestic energy production by making it easier for companies to drill for oil and natural gas on federal land, and rolls back the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations on the coal industry.
"The best unemployment benefit is a good job," said RSC Chairman Steve Scalise of Louisiana. "By unleashing the power of American energy, reforming federal labor laws, promoting transparency and accountability in the regulatory process, and spurring investment in local businesses, we will provide opportunities for millions of Americans to succeed with good, high-paying jobs."
The package includes a host of GOP bills already introduced this Congress, many of which have passed the House but languish in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Scalise denied that the package was a rehash of old ideas, saying, "There never can be enough good jobs bills that are moving through Congress."
The Louisiana Republican said he hoped the bill would force the Senate to move forward on House Republican job initiatives.
The bill calls for major reforms to the role of labor unions. It would repeal a decades-old law that requires contractors for federal projects to pay prevailing wages, or the same wages paid to a majority of workers in similar construction jobs in the area. And it would bar federal employees from using official paid time for union activity.
It also would allow businesses that employ union workers to give merit-based wage increases, bonuses or other pay that is higher than what is called for in the workplace's collective bargaining agreement.
The measure, which its authors say would create hundred of thousands of jobs, also would green-light the Keystone XL pipeline and remove federal barriers to the controversial drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking."
Influential conservative and anti-tax groups, including FreedomWorks, Americans for Tax Reform and National Taxpayers Union, have praised the bill.
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, gave a tepid endorsement to the Republican Study Committee's effort, saying, "If they want to package it in a way that they think is best, I'll pat them on the back."
Scalise, whose committee includes more than 170 of the House Republican Conference's 233 members, suggested the bill complemented — not challenged — Boehner's efforts to promote the party's jobs initiative.
"The fact that we've taken many of the best ideas that our members have been working on and put them all in a bill helps set the focus even stronger to the American people that there is an answer to this failed Obama economy," the Louisiana Republican said.