President Obama is again challenging minority Republicans to end their opposition to extending tax reductions for middle income Americans. The president also pushed for final congressional approval of legislation designed to help small businesses affected by the U.S. economic recession.
Mr. Obama emerged from a meeting with economic advisers, Vice President Joe Biden, and other cabinet members, to welcome a Senate vote on Tuesday moving a small business bill toward final approval after what he called months of partisan blockade.
The legislation would create a new government-operated fund to help small banks increase the number of loans they make to small businesses, and provide tax breaks.
Republicans assert that the measure will be ineffective. They campaigned hard against the measure, in part to prevent the president from achieving a key legislative victory weeks before the November mid-term congressional elections.
The Senate procedural vote, accomplished when two Republicans about to retire from Congress joined Democrats, would clear the way for a final Senate vote and expected easy passage in the House of Representatives.
Mr. Obama then pivoted to the much bigger issue in the national debate - whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts set to expire at the end of the year.
Republicans insist on extending tax reductions for all Americans, including those earning more $400,000 or more a year. Mr. Obama says that's not affordable, and renewed the charge that Republicans are holding the middle class "hostage".
"So we don't have time for any more games," said President Obama. "I understand there is an election coming up. But the American people didn't send us here to just think about our jobs, they send us here to think about theirs. They sent us here to think about their lives and their children's lives and to be responsible and to be serious about the challenges we face as a nation."
Republican leaders in the House of Representatives want Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, to allow a vote on a measure that would prevent any change in tax rates.
Since he ruffled feathers in his party by suggesting that he would vote on a proposal for middle class tax cuts if Republicans had no other choice, House Minority Leader John Boehner has been forced to clarify his position.
"Raising taxes on anyone, especially small businesses, is the exact wrong thing to do in a struggling economy," said John Boehner.
Republicans in the House and Senate are pushing legislation that would rule out what they describe as "tax hikes", even though they voted under former President George W. Bush to have reductions expire at the end of this year.
President Obama says allowing tax reductions for higher income Americans would add $700 billion to an already ballooning federal deficit, while favoring only the wealthiest two percent of Americans.