In his State of the Union address last week, Obama touted small businesses as a core element of his pledge to create an economy that strengthens the middle class. Yet administration officials said the number of new businesses that have been launched annually has fallen by 23 percent in recent years.
Also this month, Obama asked Congress to give him the authority to restructure government agencies to streamline regulatory requirements for small businesses, and he elevated the director of the Small Business Administration to Cabinet level to emphasize his commitment.
“Most new jobs are created in start-ups and small businesses. So let’s pass an agenda that helps them succeed,” Obama said during the State of the Union speech. “Tear down regulations that prevent aspiring entrepreneurs from getting the financing to grow. Expand tax relief to small businesses that are raising wages and creating good jobs. Both parties agree on these ideas. So put them in a bill, and get it on my desk this year.”
House Republicans responded by pointing out that their chamber already had approved bills containing elements of Obama’s plan — such as increasing the limit on “mini public offerings” for start-ups from $5 million to $50 million and allowing companies to “crowdfund” by raising money from many individuals through regulated online platforms — only to have the bills languish in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The White House acknowledged that Republicans have supported similar ideas and cast the president’s legislation as a vehicle to bring the parties together in an effort to craft a bill on which both can agree. Most of the president’s economic agenda has been blocked on Capitol Hill, with the GOP objecting to expensive new spending proposals during a time of soaring deficits.
“Many of the ideas endorsed by the president today have already been put forward — and acted on — by House Republicans,” said Brendan Buck, spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). “The proposals . . . could already be law if the United States Senate would simply act.”
The administration stressed that the cost of the legislative package, which will be included in Obama’s fiscal 2013 budget, could be offset by the elimination of tax loopholes and write-offs that the administration also will call for in its spending request, to be unveiled Feb. 13.
“It’s not a contest of who can claim credit,” said Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, “but rather whether we can come together in a bipartisan way to accelerate job growth and hiring.”