Could 2014 be a bipartisan "year of action"?

President Obama continued hammering home his message of economic opportunity and social mobility on Saturday, laying out a condensed version of the economic agenda he detailed in Tuesday’s State of the Union.

Despite a growing economy, the president said in his weekly address, “inequality has deepened. Too many Americans are working harder and harder just to get by, and too many still aren’t working at all.”

“Our job is to reverse these trends,” he said.

The president detailed four portions of his agenda to stem the rising tide of inequality. The first: “More new jobs – jobs in construction and manufacturing, jobs in innovation and energy.”

The second portion, the president said, is “training more Americans with the skills to fill those jobs.” He recalled his trip on Thursday to a General Electric plant in Wisconsin where he highlighted GE’s apprenticeship programs and emphasized the importance of both job training and job placement.

 On Thursday, he warned that too many job training programs amount to a “train and pray” approach that isn’t always successful at securing employment for people when they finish their training.

The third plank in his agenda, the president said, is improving American education, from preschool through college.

And finally, the president said, part four is “making sure hard work pays off for men and women,” underscoring his concerted push for an increase in the federal minimum wage.

In their own weekly address on Saturday, congressional Republicans extended an olive branch to the administration, highlighting four areas in which their own agenda coincides with the president’s.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., praised the annual spectacle of all three branches of government convening in the House chamber at the State of the Union, an event he labeled “democracy at its finest.”

He and several other Republicans laid out four proposals supported by Republicans that could present the potential for bipartisan progress. “Even better,” Upton added, “These are all areas where the House has already acted, and we can move the ball forward without delay.”

Rep. Gregg Harper, R-Miss., touted his proposal to cut off public funding for political party conventions and redirect that money to pediatric research at the National Institutes of Health.

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., boosted the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow hourly workers to convert their overtime pay into comp days.

 Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., highlighted the SKILLS Act, which would reorganize federal job training programs to prioritize those “programs that work” and “actually lead to jobs,” according to Brooks.

And Upton himself pitched a bill that would streamline the permitting process for natural gas pipelines and facilities to create an “architecture of abundance” to manage America’s rapidly growing natural gas production.

The GOP’s group effort to highlight common ground on Saturday dovetailed with a letter sent by House Republican leaders to the president on Thursday in which they laid out the same four areas of potential cooperation and called on the president to help them advance the proposals.

“We are eagerly awaiting his reply,” Upton said on Saturday. “We believe that this can be a year of bipartisan action – a moment when speeches give way to solutions.”

  • Jake Miller

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