Obama pushes workplace reforms as GOP presses for energy expansion

Two separate economic prescriptions emerged in weekly addresses from President Obama and Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., Saturday, with the president highlighting proposals on paid family leave and child care for working families and the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman pushing a new energy policy to expand production of fossil fuels and renewable energy.

Noting the unrest in Iraq, which has been blamed for driving up oil prices, Upton said the U.S. can no longer afford to rely on foreign energy sources, particularly from unstable areas.

He slammed the president's new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, which limit carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. The president argues the new EPA rules would spur growth in the renewable energy sector while helping to stave off climate change, but Upton warned they would drive up the cost of energy and "make it harder to use all of our American resources."

He also criticized the repeated delays in the approval process for the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would transmit crude oil from Canadian tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. That project, he said, could replace energy from hostile parts of the world and replace it with supplies from "our friend, Canada."

"Instead, the project is in regulatory purgatory," he added, "and America waits and waits."

Upton said the House would move on an "all of the above" energy strategy to expand both fossil fuels and renewable fuels.

"We have already taken steps to modernize permitting, approve major energy projects, cut red tape for hydropower plants and keep American coal in our energy mix. But we're not going to stop there," he said. "We are offering more predictable regulations that encourage investment, lower prices and create jobs here at home. We're making targeted energy efficiency reforms, which will also help reduce costs and eliminate waste ... We're working to keep nuclear power safe and sustainable for the long-term."

"Together, these steps could help save money for American families, create the new jobs and industries that we want and strengthen our position across the globe," he added.

In his own address, the president previewed his White House Summit on Working Families, which will bring business leaders and workers to Washington Monday to discuss America's workplace policies.

He pushed for an expansion of paid family leave, saying America is "way behind the times" by not guaranteeing workers time off to care for an elderly parent or a new baby.

"Only three countries in the world report that they don't offer paid maternity leave," the president said. "Three. And the United States is one of them."

He also discussed the importance of child care and hourly flexibility, saying workers should not have to choose between a job and family.

"In a new study, nearly half of all parents - women and men - report that they've said no to a job, not because they didn't want it, but because it would be too hard on their families," he said. "When that many talented, hard-working people are forced to choose between work and family, something's wrong. Other countries are making it easier for people to have both. We should too, if we want American businesses to compete and win in the global economy."

"Family leave, child care, flexibility - these aren't frills, they're basic needs," he said. "They shouldn't be bonuses, they should be the bottom line. "

  • Jake Miller

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