House to challenge Obama next week on streamlining federal jobs programs

"We remain committed to trying to help those who are unemployed," Cantor said Tuesday. "We are going to be bringing up the SKILLS Act next week, that is a bill that I think both sides can come together on to provide some assistance for those who don't have the right kind of training or skills so they can access the unfilled jobs that are out there in many of the industry sectors."

Cantor said in February that Republicans would pursue this improvement, during a speech he delivered at the American Enterprise Institute.

"Federal jobs training programs ought to make it easier for Americans who are out of work or who are changing careers to get the skills they need," he said then, noting the dozens of existing programs that need to be reformed. "We can fix this, and we should be able to muster bipartisan support to do so."

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The bill will be marked up Wednesday by the House Education and the Workforce Committee. Republicans on that committee and elsewhere in the House have said the bill is an attempt to connect the millions of people out of work with the millions of job openings, and have charged that that current federal work programs are failing to make these connections now.

Republicans have also noted that President Obama has called for fixes to what he said last year was a "maze of confusing training programs," and has called for a single program.

But the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.), said Obama has failed to move on this sort of proposal so far.

"Last year, President Obama urged Congress to cut through the confusing maze of programs and create one program for individuals to access the assistance they need," Foxx said last month. "The SKILLS Act is the only proposal that moves us toward this goal. It is time to be bold with how we prepare today's workers to compete and succeed in this new economy."

Under her bill, H.R. 803, 35 federal jobs programs would be consolidated and reformed into a single program, called the Workforce Investment Fund. This would be the single source of employment help for workers, companies and the unemployed.

It would encourage state and local workforce groups to present more detailed plans about how they would help people find jobs, and eliminate federal rules about who can serve on these boards.