President Obama urged passage of his proposals to stimulate hiring by small businesses through tax credits and lending incentives, arguing that similar measures are partly responsible for the economic recovery over the last few months.
Small businesses have historically been responsible for two out of every three new jobs created in the U.S., Obama said Friday, and they must be a crucial part of the economic recovery.
"To replace the millions of jobs lost in the recession, we need to make sure small companies are able to open up, expand and add names to their payrolls," Obama told reporters gathered in the White House Rose Garden.
The president's remarks represent a renewed push within the administration to pass a key part of his economic program, while criticism mounts over the handling of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Even as the environmental and economic drama unfolds on television, administration officials are working behind the scenes with Democratic leaders in Congress to promote economic recovery.
In the president's estimation, the solution depends largely on his proposals to eliminate capital gains taxes for investments in small firms and provide tax relief to small start-up companies.
To stimulate the flow of credit, the president also wants the federal government to help underwrite loans through community banks and help fund state-based programs to promote lending to small firms and manufacturers.
Obama is also urging Congress to expand and extend some Small Business Administration programs that increase loan limits.
"Government can't create private-sector jobs," Obama said, after a morning meeting with small-business owners and employees at the White House. "But it can create the conditions for small business like those represented here to grow and hire more people. That's what has guided much of our economic agenda."
But Republicans say they dispute the president's basic premise. After a meeting between Obama and congressional leaders on Thursday, in which the president privately asked them to support his economic agenda, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said more government spending was not the answer to the nation's problems.
Boehner gave the president a document signed by more than 100 economists, he said, urging both parties to cut spending to boost private-sector job creation.
"Small-business owners, like the folks at the White House today, understand that in tough economic times, a budget is more important, not less," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said after the president's remarks.