CAMBRIDGE, Md. — After President Barack Obama outlined his goals for what he said should be a “year of action” for the American people, House Republicans are sending a message back: We’ve already done some of the heavy lifting.
Ahead of a three-day retreat that started here Wednesday night, House GOP leaders signed a letter to the president identifying four of the priorities he’d set in Tuesday’s State of the Union address on which the party had already acted.
“Under our Constitution, most action requires the Congress and the President to work together,” House Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and the other three top GOP House leaders wrote. “Naturally, we don’t agree with all of the proposals you outlined in your speech, but where there is the potential for agreement we believe it is critical that we come together.”
First on the list was Obama’s announcement that Vice President Joe Biden would lead a review of job training programs to make sure they’re helping workers gain the skills needed in the modern economy. Biden, the GOP leaders write, can simply look at a study the government’s own General Accounting Office has already produced. And he’d find that the SKILLS Act that passed the House last year would consolidate the many federal programs to “focus resources on the programs that work.”
The letter also quotes Obama saying that “a mother deserves a day off to care for a sick child or a sick parent without running into hardship,” and that it was time to “do away with workplace policies that belong in a ‘Mad Men’ episode.” The GOP leaders go on to promote a bill passed last May, the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow individuals to earn comp time instead of receiving overtime pay.
“It is wrong that federal law from the pre-’Mad Men’ era denies these mothers and fathers this flexibility,” the Republicans say. Obama, though, cited the hit AMC series to call on Congress to address a gap in pay between men and women.
The recurring theme of the GOP letter is one Republicans have tried to advance — that despite the popular image of Congress as having produced little meaningful legislation this term, the House has sent a stack of bills to the Democratic-controlled Senate, only to see them collect dust.
The letter was signed by Boehner and his leadership deputies — Eric Cantor of Virginia, Kevin McCarthy of California and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, who delivered the official Republican response to Obama’s speech Tuesday night.
“We haven’t given up on working with you to find areas of common agreement,” the Republicans write. “We are confident that success in these areas will open even more avenues for success. The American people are counting on us. Let’s get to work.”
House Republicans plan to use their retreat here to try to find consensus on a number of other key issues not listed in the letter, including immigration reform and what concessions they might seek in return for raising the nation’s debt limit.
Obama, in his nationally televised speech, said he looked forward to working with Congress but, in the event agreement on key issues could not be reached, would seek any unilateral actions he could take via executive orders.
Photo: SpeakerBoehner via Flickr