WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama exhorted Congress on Monday to make passage of a long-languishing small-business aid package its first order of business when it returns next month from its summer break.
"I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade," Obama said in the Rose Garden after meeting with his economic advisers.
Acknowledging that the economy still remains extremely fragile, the president said he'd also have other specific ideas in the days ahead.
He mentioned extending tax cuts for households making under $250,000 a year signed into law by former President George W. Bush but due to expire this year, upping the nation's investment in clean energy, rebuilding more roads and highways, and tax cuts designed to keep jobs in the United States.
"My economic team is 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," he said.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later said that in addition to initiatives already unveiled that are bogged down in Congress, the administration would roll out a variety of targeted measures designed to spur the economy and create an environment conducive to hiring.
None of the measures will be as major as last year's stimulus bill, Gibbs said. "There's only so much that can be done," he added.
"Those in America are frustrated. Those in the West Wing are frustrated" about the slow pace of recovery and an unemployment rate hovering near 10 percent, Gibbs said.
In a week likely to be dominated by foreign policy, Obama is trying to show he's still minding the economy after his 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
A string of weak economic reports in recent weeks has fed fears that the economy would fall back into recession, only slightly offset by Monday's government report that consumer spending had increased in July after several down months.
"Every single day, I'm 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 out people back to work," Obama said in his statement.
Obama said action on the package of small-business tax cuts and credit incentives is "one thing we know that we should do" as soon as possible. Republicans have been blocking the bill, calling it misguided.
However, Obama said it was being "held up by a partisan minority that won't even let it get to a vote."
"The bill is fully paid for. And there's no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics," he said.