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Opinion

January 14, 2014

Whatever else happens, the issue is still jobs

(Continued)

CHICKASHA —

The largest group of bills, 13 in all, deal with energy: The Northern Route Approval Act (about the Keystone XL Pipeline). The Offshore Energy and Jobs Act. The Protecting States' Rights to Promote American Energy Security Act. The Natural Gas Pipeline Permitting Reform Act. And more.

On other issues, there is the Innovation Act. The Small Business Capital Access and Job Preservation Act. The Working Families Flexibility Act. The Water Resources Reform and Development Act. And still more.

All have gone nowhere in divided Washington. But now, Hill Republicans believe they have a new opportunity to make progress. The disastrous rollout of Obamacare, they say, has not only reduced the public's faith in Obama's ability to handle health care issues. It has also reduced the public's faith in the president overall, and has in addition made voters increasingly likely to view Obama more as a cause of the country's problems than a solution.

"This is a broad reassessment," said a plugged-in Republican strategist. "Now the electorate is really open to hearing alternatives. And that puts Republicans in a remarkably enviable position for a political party, which is the country wants to hear what they have to say."

And what House Republicans will have to say will be about jobs. That doesn't mean they won't talk about Obamacare -- the system's already serious problems, should they become acute in coming months, could demand action, in addition to being a winning issue for the GOP. It also doesn't mean they can't talk about spending, a perennial concern of the party's base. 

But it means the main focus will continue to be jobs.

Not only is unemployment still high, but the nation's workforce participation rate has fallen to alarming levels as millions of unemployed and discouraged workers give up hope of ever finding a job. And millions more are underemployed, treading water in low-paying jobs they would never take if they had something better.

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