Facing resistance over his administration's plan to mine unspent cash from the extended bank bailout program on job creation, President Obama urged Congress Wednesday to pass proposals that he says will put Americans back to work.
The president said he is hoping for bipartisan support to use the Troubled Assets Relief Program to help small businesses and bring down double-digit unemployment.
"This program has served its original purpose, and the cost has been much lower than we expected, giving us a chance to pay down the deficit faster than we thought at the time and also allowing us to invest in job creation on Main Street rather than on Wall Street," Obama said after a White House meeting with a group of Republican and Democratic congressional members.
"I'm not going to rest until every American who's looking for work can find a job," he added.
Obama expressed confidence that additional government action can help put Americans back to work.
He spoke after outlining his proposals in a speech at the Brookings Institution Tuesday. The president is calling for additional infrastructure spending, tax breaks and other federal help for small businesses, and rebates for people who retrofit their homes to make them more energy efficient.
But several Republicans have said no way to using TARP money for jobs creation. Republicans have started calling the diversion of cash a "stimulus two" at the expense of the debt and deficit.
"We can't keep borrowing money from the Chinese and the Middle East and passing the tab to our kids and grandkids," said House Minority Leader John Boehner in a written statement. "Using TARP to 'pay for' more government programs is just another form of deficit spending."
Obama said he's confident lawmakers can "forge a consensus" at least on ways to help small business.
"Spurring hiring and economic growth are not Democratic or Republican issues. They are American issues that affect every single one of our constituents," he said.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer on Wednesday would not call the proposals a "stimulus" package. He said the $787 billion stimulus had a "broader reach" and that the current proposals are more "targeted." He did not offer a price tag on the new proposals.
But Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on Wednesday sent a letter to Congress announcing his department's plans to extend TARP for another year, and that $150 billion of the $700 billion dedicated to the TARP would not be needed for financial bailouts. He added that the Treasury also expects banks to repay $175 billion in TARP funds by the end of fiscal year 2010, with more repayment after that.
This totals $325 billion, which Geithner wrote could be used for deficit reduction. But a source familiar with the administration's plans said the $150 billion could be used for jobs programs.
Fox Business' Peter Barnes contributed to this report.