Republican House leaders have penned a letter to the president outlining what they say is “common ground” between the president’s goals and their own.
The letter identifies four bills that have passed the House that the leadership argues accomplish four goals the president outlined in his Tuesday State of the Union address; it is signed by Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and the Republican Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
“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,” the letter reads.
While still filled with criticism of the president’s promise to use executive authority ("On Tuesday night you said, 'let's make this a year of action.' We agree. Of course, under our Constitution, most action requires the Congress and the President to work together,” the letter begins.) the letter appears to signal a slight thaw in the icy relations between Republicans and Democrats in recent months.
The letter comes just a day after a Farm Bill—a bill House leadership failed to corral their members into voting for last year—passed, and just weeks after a budget deal passed with bipartisan support. Spring, is that you?
Thaw aside, the letter falls short of offering concessions on the bills Democrats have already voiced their opposition to, though it signals openness to compromise and negotiation on a research bill that Rep. Eric Cantor has made a priority.
For instance, one bill the letter pushes forward is the SKILLS Act, which consolidates the federal government’s 47 jobs training programs. It passed the House in March, but had almost no support from Democrats, who said they weren’t invited to help write the bill and objected to the contents of the bill because they said unions, community colleges and underserved communities would be hurt and cut out of the trainings.
The letter also pushes forward the Working Families Flexibility Act, that would make it possible for employers can offer paid time off instead of overtime pay; the administration has said the president would likely veto the bill “in its current form” and the letter offers no fixes from their end, instead suggesting the president should “revisit this decision.”
Thirdly, it promotes the Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act, which passed the House in November, and aims to speed up the permit process for natural gas pipelines—a process Democrats maintain isn't slow and doesn't affect the limited supply of gas.
But on research, the House leaders ask the Obama administration lead on finding compromise on research and pushes one of Cantor's pet bills, a proposal with bipartisan support that eliminates public funding for political party conventions—a pool of funds that weren’t even tapped into by either major party in the last election—and instead funds pediatric research. Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine from Virginia, with Utah’s Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, are expected to propose a similar bill in the Senate.
“Mr. President, as you reminded us all on Tuesday night, sometimes things don’t come easy, but we should never give up and never quit. 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 letter finishes. “Let’s get to work.”