Gridlock in Washington? Don't bet on it

President Obama's last State of the Union address is in the books. Republicans have already gone back to the trenches and dismissed the majority of his proposals.

Now what?

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) listens to President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.
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Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) listens to President Barack Obama deliver the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC.

Don't despair at the thought of another year of Washington gridlock just yet. While the GOP shrugged at most of the president's policy plans, it didn't shrug at everything. There are actual, honest-to-goodness issues around which the Mr. Obama and his congressional counterparts can find room to work. And if progress can be made on any of them, America's economic competitive posture would experience a serious upgrade in 2015.

Read MoreSOTU Live blog: Get a recap of the key points and reactions

Consider, for instance, the subject of America's crumbling highways, bridges, railways, and ports. "21st century businesses need 21st century infrastructure," said the president from the lectern, and political consensus would agree with him. All that stands in the way now is how to pay for it.

If Washington must agree on how to pay for something, it's by no means a sure deal. But there are signs of a thaw; a handful of Senate Republicans have said that raising the gas tax, once unthinkable, is an option for funding a long-term plan. Others are exploring the possibility of funding infrastructure through the proceeds of repatriating overseas income.

Read MoreOp-ed: It's about credibility—and Washington has ZERO

Here's what the economy stands to gain if movement on infrastructure actually happens: more than 21,000 American jobs for every $1 billion spent, and $3.50 in economic activity for every dollar invested, according to a recent Duke University study. Those numbers are even rosier if the funding comes with strong "Buy American" provisions attached.

What about trade policy? There's widespread support among Republican lawmakers to see trade deals pass, and in his address President Obama asked Congress specifically for trade promotion authority so the administration can close the deal on its coveted Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

Read MoreOp-ed: Is Obama the only realist in Washington?

Here's the problem: The president and his situational allies are far short of the majority they'll need for TPA and TPP, let alone any other trade-related alphabet soups on the horizon. But do you know what has won recent majorities of Congressional support? Including a rule on currency manipulation in the TPP.

Doing so wouldn't lose many Republicans and would gain a whole lot of Democrats, and if TPP partner Japan can't stomach accountability for manipulating its exchange rate to gain an artificial trade advantage, it would cede leadership among Pacific Rim economic democracies to the U.S. President Obama is right; we can't close our country off to the opportunities of global trade. But a deal just for a deal's sake would be a mistake.

Lastly, consider the evergreen subject of tax reform. The president had a lot to say about "middle-class economics," and it's clear that he and the GOP are miles apart on where individual rates should be. They're much closer, however, when it comes to the subject of business taxes, as Treasury Secretary Lew recently noted. Whispers around Capitol Hill suggest that corporate tax reform might have legs in 2015. That's great news for American industry – if reform is approached in the right way.

Read MoreLew says Congress should turn efforts toward business taxes

Everyone agrees that an overhaul of high U.S. corporate tax rates is overdue, but the devil is in the details. If tax reform is revenue neutral, some sectors will pay more while others will pay less. And if incentives for capital investment are removed to finance a rate cut, our manufacturers will be among the losers in this exercise. It would make no sense to cut taxes for Wall Street and retailers while raising them for manufacturing, which faces the most global competition.

So what should we expect? We could see each side dig in ahead of a presidential election cycle, blaming each for another year of the same-old political morass. But don't discount the possibility that cooler heads will prevail. If they do there are opportunities, like those detailed above, for breakthroughs that will result in honest-to-goodness prosperity for the rest of the country.

Read MoreObama's priorities are wrong: Boehner

Can Washington get its act together and get something done? There's plenty of time left in 2015 to do so. After all, we're talking about job creation and a better business climate. And what kind of politician, Democrat or Republican, wouldn't want that?

Commentary by Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.