Obama urges passage of small-business initiatives

By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post staff writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2010; 4:11 PM

President Obama on Tuesday urged lawmakers to move forward on a series of Democratic initiatives before they leave next week for their summer break, saying voters "sent us here to represent their interests, not our own."

His comments came after an hour-long, Oval Office meeting with congressional leaders from both parties. Obama called the meeting "productive," but in his remarks, he repeatedly accused the Republicans of blocking legislation for political gain.

"We shouldn't let America's small businesses be held hostage to partisan politics," Obama said as he continued an effort to portray Republicans as the party of big corporations and Wall Street firms.

In response, a spokesman for Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blamed Obama and the Democrats for delaying action on legislation to aid small businesses -- by helping community banks offer loans -- to focus on other Democratic priorities.

"The main thing holding up the small business bill now is that Senator Reid keeps getting off of it: to pass the Wall Street bill, to pass the supplemental [spending bill] -- and now at the president's request, to take up a campaign finance bill," said spokesman Don Stewart. "They need to make up their mind down there."

The meeting with lawmakers is the result of a promise Obama made during the last State of the Union speech to meet regularly with his adversaries. But it comes as both parties have largely retreated into a defensive crouch ahead of elections this fall.

In recent days, Obama has notched up his partisan rhetoric, taking aim at specific members of Congress and shedding some of the attempts at bipartisanship that characterized earlier periods of his presidency.

Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama said Republicans have repeatedly used parliamentary tactics to block his appointments to the judiciary, refusing to allow final votes on many qualified candidates. He said he urged McConnell to "fill the vacancies that continue to plague the judiciary."

He also urged House lawmakers to pass new funding for the war efforts in Afghanistan, saying the new strategy he put in place last December is the right one to secure that country and prevent threats to America.

"Now we have to see that strategy through," he said.

But the president appeared to concede that some of his initiatives will fail this year. He said the Senate should pass a pared-down energy bill aimed at responding to the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But he made it clear that legislation -- which does not impose a cap on carbon -- does not go far enough for him.

"It's only the first step," Obama said. "I intend to keep pushing for broader reform, including climate legislation."

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