AUSTIN, Texas -- President Barack Obama, engaging with gusto in the impending fall elections, said Monday that Republicans owe Americans an explanation for blocking a bill aimed at boosting hiring by small businesses.
Speaking to a Democratic fundraiser in Texas, Obama gave an expanded argument for the stalled legislation and an expanded criticism of Republicans who oppose it.
He said his administration has given small businesses "eight tax cuts and we're not through," and he noted that the bill's expense is paid for through other cuts -- and so does not add to the ballooning federal deficit. What's more, Obama said, it is endorsed by the Chamber of Commerce, which "doesn't go out of its way to say nice things about me."
"And yet we still can't get it moving through the Senate," the president said. Of Republicans, he said: "Their basic theory is, we don't want to do anything that helps the president move the country forward because they're thinking about the next election instead of the next generation."
The small business bill has become standard fare in Obama's political speeches, as the White House sees it as a vulnerable spot for Republicans who argue that the administration's economic response isn't weighted enough toward tax cuts and creating private-sector jobs. With the measure aimed at doing both, Obama is calculating that the GOP is on the spot for opposing it.
The bill would create a $30 billion fund to help unfreeze lending for credit-starved small businesses, and provide about $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses. Senate Republicans have blocked it from coming up for a vote.
"There's been a fundamental lack of seriousness on the other side," Obama said. "We've spent the last 20 months governing; they've spent the last 20 months politicking."
From Washington to New York City, and from Atlanta to Chicago, the president has headlined event after event and raised millions of dollars in recent weeks for his party. This push came amid a sense of urgency as Democrats fight to maintain their grip on power in the House and Senate.
Here, Obama was generating between $750,000 and $1 million for the Democratic National Committee. Later in the day in Dallas, he will do the same for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. There were no estimates on the amount that was to raise for Senate Democrats' campaign arm.
Conspicuously absent from the president's Texas stop was any appearance with Texas' Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, Bill White. Some Democratic candidates have been wary of appearing with the president given voters' concerns about his stewardship of the economy and other issues.
"I don't think that it says anything broadly about the president's coattails," said Burton. "I think it says that Bill White had something else going on today that he would rather do than campaign with the president."
Between the fundraisers will come a presidential speech at the University of Texas in Austin, one in which Obama will comprehensively recap the steps he and the Democratic-led Congress have taken to make college more affordable and to significantly increase the number of college students who actually finish with degrees.
The president will put all his education goals in the context of improving the economy, the key concern for an electorate that is demanding faster results. But sandwiching an official speech in Texas between his political appearances also lets the White House bill taxpayers rather than the party committees for most of the trip's costs.
In the early days of Obama's presidential campaign -- way back in February 2007 -- he spoke in Austin at a rally that drew an estimated 20,000 people on a rainy day.
"In some ways, he's returning to a place that has great value to him," said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer. "It was an important moment."