House GOP kicks off retreat with plea to Obama for cooperation

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Jan. 28, 2014
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Jan. 28, 2014
J. Scott Applewhite / AP

McClatchy Washington Bureau

             House Republicans Thursday kicked off their2014 strategy session with a pledge to work with President Barack Obama to pursue four of his State of the Union goals—including federally funded research, more natural gas production and help for workers.


                None of the proposals are the kind of high-profile issues likely to cause significant friction between the White House and the Republicans. But party officials are eager to show they can get along with Democrats, and want to come out of this conference projecting an image of cooperation.


                “Naturally, we don’t agree with all of the proposals you outlined in your speech,” said a letter signed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and three other House of Representatives Republican leaders. House Republicans are meeting this week in Cambridge, Md.


                They added in their letter,  “where there is the potential for agreement we believe it is critical that we come together to advance the interests of the American people.”


                They identified four areas Obama mentioned Tuesday, and said “we believe we can work together without delay.” The House has already acted on measures in each area.


                Obama asked Vice President Joe Biden to lead an effort to revamp training programs so they could provide needed skills. The House last year passed the SKILLS Act to consolidate federal job training programs.


                A second area involves natural gas production. Obama pledged to “cut red tape” to make it easier to produce natural gas.


                “We agree,” the congressmen wrote, and cited the House passage last year of legislation to ensure that pipelines built to connect growing natural gas supplies with new factories.


                Third, Obama urged doing away with outdated workplace rules. The House passed a measure last year making it easier for private employers to grant workers compensatory time off in lieu of overtime. The administration has opposed the bill, but the Republicans urged the president to work with them to make it acceptable.


                Fourth, the president asked Congress to “undo the damage done by last year’s cuts to basic research.” The lawmakers urged seeking programs that could be funded.


                “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 says. Also signing were House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Conference Chairman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

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