Fresh off his ten-day vacation, President Obama on Monday addressed the most contentious issue of this election season: the economy. Speaking in the Rose Garden, Obama urged Congress to "rise above the politics of the moment" and pass the jobs bill that is currently stalled in the Senate as soon as members return from their recess in September.
Obama faulted Senate Republicans for blocking action on the legislation, the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act, which features tax cuts and incentives for small business. "Holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth," said Obama. "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."
Obama said the Senate bill would help small businesses get loans and would encourage investment spending by eliminating capital gains taxes on certain kinds of investments. "There is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics," said Obama. "Small business owners and the communities that rely on them, they don't have time for political games."
The president met with his economic team on Monday and said his administration is focused on moving the economy forward by extending the Bush-era tax cuts for all but the highest income earners, and by redoubling investments in clean energy and rebuilding infrastructure. GOP leaders want all the Bush tax cuts extended, including those for households earning more than $250,000 a year, which would add to projected federal deficits.
Economic policy is likely to dominate the political and legislative debates in the run up to the elections, particularly on the question of how to provide additional support to the lagging economy. Most economists agree that the federal stimulus package helped avert a much worse economic downturn, but the large federal deficit is raising questions about the prospects for major additional federal spending or extending all the Bush tax cuts.
Obama's Rose Garden remarks come a week after House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner of Ohio called for Obama to fire Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and other members of the president's economic team. "We do not have the luxury of waiting months for the president to pick scapegoats for his failing 'stimulus' policies," Boehner said in a speech to business leaders in Cleveland last week.