Washington – President Barack Obama signaled Monday that he’ll tackle rather than run from the economy as he campaigns for Democrats this fall.
Speaking from the White House Rose Garden, the president accused Republicans of holding a jobs bill hostage for political reasons to the detriment of small business owners — and the workers they’d hire if the bill were enacted.
“I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade,” Obama said.
The president also said that between now and the fall elections he’ll announce more plans to promote short-term growth and long-term economic competitiveness. He promised additional measures to extend middle-class tax cuts, invest in clean energy and cut taxes for businesses to encourage them to hire.
“I know we’re entering election season, but the people who sent us here expect us to work together to get things done and improve this economy,” he said.
The timing of Obama’s remarks reflects recognition that public confidence in the economy — and Democrats’ stewardship of it — is weak and eroding, along with weekly measures of economic vitality. That could boost Republicans in November’s elections.
The small business bill will be the Senate’s first major priority when it returns on Sept. 13. The House of Representatives already has passed measures to set up a $30 billion loan fund for small business. The Treasury Department would administer it through small, healthy community banks to get money into the hands of small business owners. The bill also would provide a series of tax breaks for small businesses.
The Senate bill has stalled because Republicans say that it doesn’t address two of their most pressing concerns: The expiration of Bush-era tax cuts and a requirement in the new health care law that they say could burden small businesses with paperwork.
Obama said the Senate Republicans’ opposition “makes no sense. This bill is fully paid for. It will not add to the deficit, and there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics.”
Republicans say the bill is further evidence the Obama administration wants to spend its way out of the economic slump.
“Instead of growing jobs as promised, Washington Democrats have grown the size of the national debt, the federal government and the unemployment rate,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Monday.
Privately, lawmakers from both parties say they expect that Democrats will get the votes they need to cut off debate next month and pass the bill.
Foreign policy was supposed to dominate Obama’s agenda this week, with the president delivering an address to the nation Tuesday night to take credit for pulling combat troops out of Iraq as he promised, and getting the Mideast peace process jump-started with new talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders this week in Washington.
He visited privately with wounded troops Monday at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and will see other soldiers at Fort Bliss, Texas, on Tuesday ahead of his prime-time speech.
(Kevin G. Hall contributed to this article.)