Policy: Labor

House GOP presses Obama to put down pen, put on negotiating hat

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Politics,White House,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Barack Obama,Labor,PennAve,Law

House Republicans told President Obama on Thursday he doesn't have to follow through with his threat to legislate without Congress because many of his State of the Union ideas overlap with GOP proposals.

In a four-page letter sent to Obama ahead of the annual House Republican issues retreat, the top GOP leaders outlined key areas where the the Republican-led House could work with the president. And they told him the “year of action” he proclaimed in the State of the Union speech should not exclude Congress.

“Under our constitution, most action requires the Congress and the President to work together,” GOP leaders say in the letter. “Naturally, we don’t agree with all the proposals you outlined in your speech, but where there is potential for agreement we believe that it is critical that we come together to advance the interests of the American people.”

The letter is likely to put pressure on Obama, who has defended his need to act unilaterally by accusing Republicans of refusing to cooperate. The letter clearly aims to dispel Obama’s claim.

“We haven’t given up on working with you to find areas of common agreement where we can do good things for the American people,” the GOP leaders write in the letter. “Let’s get to work.”

The letter outlines four GOP proposals that encompass the priorities Obama unveiled on Tuesday night, including skills training, increasing the production and use of natural gas, workplace flexibility and boosting federal funds for medical research.

In March of 2013, for example, the House passed the SKILLS Act, which would reform federally funded job training, in part by streamlining and reducing overlapping programs.

The legislation would also make it easier for community colleges to participate in job training and would eliminate some of the requirements job seekers must fulfill in order to receive skills training.

Democrats have long opposed the legislation, however, in part because it reduces the influence of labor unions in the job-training system.

In December, the House passed legislation to increase funding for pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health. Democrats opposed this measure as well, calling it politically motivated because the cost was offset by eliminating federal funding for party conventions.

Democrats also opposed the House-passed the Working Families Flexibility Act. Democrats dubbed the bill the “More Work, Less Pay Act,” because it would allow employers to replace overtime pay with comp time. Obama threatened to veto the measure.

In the letter to Obama, Republicans acknowledged that Democrats do not entirely agree with the GOP proposals but they urged Obama to “revisit” his veto threat.

“We further request that If you have specific concerns about the legislative text, we meet at your earliest convenience to discuss those differences,” the letter reads.

Republicans will meet privately for the remainder of the week in Cambridge, Md., to work on establishing the House GOP priorities for the legislative year.

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