- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Responding to President Obama’s State of the Union challenge, House Republican leaders on Thursday offered the White House a list of areas where they believe they can cooperate this year on legislation — focused chiefly on jobs and energy.

“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 to advance the interests of the American people,” House Speaker John A. Boehner and his three top lieutenants said in a letter to Mr. Obama.

On Tuesday, the president said he wanted Congress to work on global warming, immigration, preserving his health care law, expanding government benefit programs and raising the minimum wage. But he said where Congress doesn’t act, he’ll take steps he believes are within his executive powers.

The GOP leaders, though, said if Mr. Obama is serious about working with them, there are several bills the House has already passed that he could push his own party leaders in the Senate to take up.

One chief target is job-training. Mr. Obama said he was asking Vice President Joseph R. Biden to reform the federal government’s dozens of job-training programs, many of which overlap or haven’t proved successful in retraining workers.

Republicans, though, said there’s no reason for another study. Under the prodding of Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, the Government Accountability Office has already reported on overlapping job training programs, and the House has even already passed a bill that would consolidate nearly three dozen of the programs into a single fund.

That bill passed the House in March on a vote that broke down almost exclusively along party lines. Democrats objected to the fact that the new legislation would freeze job-training funding for the rest of this decade, and said the GOP should have worked with them to write the bill.

Republicans also said they could work with Mr. Obama to promote natural gas use, and said they would work with him on revamping workplace rules — though they didn’t bite on his proposal to make businesses have to offer paid time off for workers with ill family members.

Instead, the GOP leaders said they want to change the rules so hourly-wage workers can take compensatory time off, rather than being paid overtime when they exceed a regular work week. Labor unions, however, have opposed that change, and congressional Democrats have shown little interest in pursuing it.