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Obama promises new efforts to boost economy

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 30, 2010; 9:47 PM

Under pressure to revive the faltering recovery, President Obama said Monday that he and his economic team are discussing "additional measures" to bolster growth and spur hiring, including "further tax cuts" to encourage businesses to create jobs.

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Obama offered no new proposals during brief remarks in the Rose Garden, saying he would provide details "in the days and weeks to come." Meanwhile, he urged Senate Republicans to drop their "blockade" of a Democratic measure aimed at aiding small businesses by cutting their taxes and creating a $30 billion loan fund to give them easier access to credit.

"My administration remains focused every single day on pushing this economy forward, repairing the damage that's been done to the middle class over the past decade and promoting the growth we need to get our people back to work," Obama said.

Obama recited a litany of policy initiatives long in the works, including plans to extend Bush administration tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire in January; increase investments in clean energy and corporate research; rebuild the nation's physical and communications infrastructure; and provide tax cuts to encourage small businesses to hire new workers.

But as Congress prepares to return to Washington next month, Obama said he and his economic team are "hard at work identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term."

One focus: Persuading businesses to get off the sidelines and start investing the large piles of cash they are holding on their balance sheets.

Obama's four-minute speech about the economy came on his first day back at work after a family vacation on Martha's Vineyard. His week will be dominated by foreign policy engagements, including an address to the nation Tuesday night about the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq and peace talks Wednesday with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

But last week, as economic indicators trended from bad to worse, White House advi sers scrambled to add an economic component to Obama's schedule. First, it was to take the form of a photograph at the end of his Monday meeting with economic advisers. Then, it was expanded to an appearance in the Rose Garden. Later, the White House announced that Obama will travel to Milwaukee on Labor Day to talk further about the economy.

At an afternoon briefing, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Obama plans to spend the next several weeks discussing economic proposals that are bogged down in Congress, as well as new ideas "we continue to work through the economic team that will be targeted measures to continue to spur our recovery and to create an environment in which the private sector is hiring."

Gibbs acknowledged that none of those measures will approach the size of last year's $814 billion stimulus package. "There's only so much that can be done," he said.

In the meantime, Democrats are focused on pushing the small-business bill to final passage, a measure that Obama said would "accelerate $55 billion of tax relief to encourage American business, small and large, to expand their investments over the next 14 months."

"Unfortunately, this bill has been languishing in the Senate for months, held up by a partisan minority that won't even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense," Obama said. "I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade. 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."

In a written statement, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was not conciliatory.

"Instead of growing jobs as promised, Washington Democrats have grown the size of the national debt, the federal government and the unemployment rate. And now the administration is calling for a massive tax hike on small businesses in the middle of a recession," McConnell said, referring to Obama's plan to let Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy expire next year. "So it's no surprise that most Americans think the country is on the wrong track."

Staff writer Anne E. Kornblut contributed to this report.

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