- The Washington Times - Monday, August 30, 2010

Fresh off a vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, President Obama jumped right back into the political fray Monday, saying he wants to act on boosting the economy but blaming Senate Republicans for holding a key small-business lending bill “hostage.”

Mr. Obama, speaking to reporters in the White House Rose Garden, acknowledged the sluggish pace of the recovery and said his team is doing all it can to come up with new proposals to revive the economy, such as extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the middle class, “redoubling” investments in clean-energy research and development and pumping more money into infrastructure projects.

But he said that lawmakers’ “first order of business” when they return to Washington should be passing a measure aimed at inducing community banks to lend to credit-strapped small businesses firms.

“Holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth,” Mr. Obama said. “So I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade.”

Senate Republicans filibustered the bill just before the Senate left for its five-week summer break, arguing that Democrats had added non-essential spending and were refusing to allow Republicans to offer many amendments.

In particular, Republicans want to have a debate on ending a provision in the health care bill that would force small businesses to keep extra paperwork to prove compliance.

On Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the GOP is also fighting to try to keep Mr. Bush’s tax cuts in place to help small businesses. Many small businesses who file as individual taxpayers would see their taxes rise if the cuts are allowed to expire at the end of this year.

More broadly, Republicans said the economy is still struggling because Mr. Obama got his massive economic stimulus package wrong.

“We could have come out of this recession in a much more vibrant way if we’d had the right fiscal policies in place, the right monetary policies in place,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee.

He said the U.S. is on the verge of “our own lost decade” like the one Japan suffered in the 1990s as that country struggled to lift itself out of the doldrums.