During a hastily-called Rose Garden event during which the sound system failed him, President Obama attempted today to communicate to the American public that his administration remains on top of the economic crisis.
The president’s primary messages were twofold: One that Republicans need to stop obstructing a initiative he proposed to cut taxes that will encourage small businesses to hire and expand, as well as a $30 billion small business lending initiative.
“Drop the blockade,” he said to Senate Republicans, whom he said were “holding this bill hostage,” damaging economic growth.
Second, the president said that his “economic team is hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term.”
Those additional measures, which he said he would be addressing “in further detail in the days and weeks to come,” seemed largely to be proposals he and administration officials had talked about before, such as further cutting corporate taxes to encourage job growth, renewing for those who earn under $200,000 a year the Bush tax cuts set to expire at the end of the calendar year, and spending more on clean energy, infrastructure, and research and development.
The event in some ways could be seen as a metaphor for the administration’s flailing on the economy. Originally no remarks were scheduled, then on Sunday evening, the White House announced the president would make remarks in the Oval Office after his economic daily briefing.
Then on Monday that was upgraded to remarks by the president at 12:30 p.m. ET in the Rose Garden after his briefing, signifying a more formal event.
Then those remarks were pushed to 1 p.m.
Finally the president approached the lectern at 1:20 p.m.
Only five sentences into his remarks, the P.A. system fizzled.
“What we did know was that it took nearly a decade -- what we did -- how are we doing on sound, guys?” the president asked
“Is it still going to the press?” he asked, checking to make sure even if he couldn’t be heard clearly in the Rose Garden, broadcast networks were getting clean sound, which they were.
“OK,” the president said.
A plane flew nearby, drowning out his voice.
“What we did know was that it was going to take nearly a decade in order for -- can you guys still hear us?”
Reporters nodded. “OK,” he continued, “let me try this one more time.”
The president said the small business lending initiative would help business owners “get the credit they need and eliminate capital gains taxes on key investments so they have more incentive to invest right now. And it would accelerate $55 billion of tax relief to encourage American businesses, small and large, to expand their investments over the next 14 months. Unfortunately, this bill has been languishing in the Senate for months, held up by partisan minority that won't even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense.”
The president said the bill “is fully paid for. It will not add to the deficit. And there is no reason to block it besides pure partisan politics.”
“The small-business owners and the communities that rely on them, they don't have time for political games,” he said. “They shouldn't have to wait any longer…I know we're entering election season, but the people who sent us here expect us to work together to get things done and improve this economy.” Noting the “serious challenges” the nation faces, the president said policymakers need to “rise above the politics of the moment to summon an equal seriousness of purpose.”
A Senate Republican leadership aide said that when the Senate returns, the first legislative vote scheduled will deal with a Republican amendment to the small business bill. The Senate is not scheduled to return until September 13.
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller