U.S. President Barack Obama and Republican lawmakers are squabbling over whether the president's plan to reform health care would help or hurt small businesses.
President Obama says a study, by the White House Council of Economic Advisors, shows that small businesses pay more for employee health benefits than big businesses do.
"Because they lack the bargaining power that large businesses have and face higher administrative costs per person, small businesses pay up to 18 percent more for the very same health insurance plans-costs that eat into their profits and get passed on to their employees," he said.
In his weekly address, Mr. Obama says lawmakers need to quickly pass his health care overhaul initiative, to relieve the burden on small businesses.
"This is unsustainable, it is unacceptable, and it is going to change when I sign health insurance reform into law," said the U.S. president.
In the weekly Republican message, Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers says the Obama plan will do more harm than good for small businesses and their employees.
"Because the Democrats' plan is bankrolled by a small business tax, more jobs will evaporate," she said.
Rodgers, from the Northwestern state of Washington, says the proposed reforms would also require small businesses to provide health care for employees or face higher taxes or fines.
She also disputes the president's contention that his plan will allow people to choose their own doctors.
"It is a prescription for disaster, one that will put Washington bureaucrats in charge of your family's personal medical decisions," said Rodgers.
Mr. Obama's health care proposal has encountered several obstacles in the past few days, despite the president's efforts to advance it.
Senate Democrats said Thursday they could not meet the president's early-August deadline for passing the bill. Democrats in the House of Representatives disagree sharply about provisions in the legislation.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is criticizing some Republicans for saying the defeat of health legislation would be an opportunity to damage him politically.
"Some have even suggested that, regardless of its merits, health care reform should be stopped as a way to inflict political damage on my administration," he said. "I will leave it to them to explain that to the American people."
Mr. Obama has spoken about health care reform at almost every opportunity in the past week. He held a public forum on the issue in Ohio on Thursday.
The night before, most of a one-hour nationally-televised news conference focused on health care. But the final question dealt with the arrest of an African-American college professor at his home in Massachusetts. When Mr. Obama responded that the police officer had acted "stupidly," it set off a national controversy on race that has diverted attention from the president's efforts on health care reform.