President Barack Obama delivered his weekly address from Michigan, a state with a 13 percent unemployment rate, to make the case for his decision to bail out the auto industry and apply pressure on Senate Republicans to move forward on a small-business jobs package.
Meanwhile, Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.) maintained in the GOP address that Obama's health care law and his desire to regulate greenhouse gas emissions are stifling the small-business industry and costing jobs throughout the country.
"You're signaling to the business owners that they best be very cautious, not only because of the flurry of new taxes and regulations, but also because a national energy tax is next on your agenda," Johanns said of the health care bill and energy proposals.
Johanns took particular aim at the health care law's requirement that all individuals obtain insurance coverage and the new costs associated with Medicare. Both, the Nebraskan said, "don't encourage small businesses to hire employees."
"It's time to stop pushing anti-growth policies and start supporting a real job growth agenda," Johanns said.
But job growth was exactly what Obama touted from the Wolverine State. Speaking at an auto plant in Detroit, Obama declared resurgence in the country's auto industry and noted that "for the first time since 2004, all three American automakers are operating at a profit."
And, Obama said, Michigan's auto industry is thriving on the clean-energy front with vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid car, ready for the market.
"What's important is that we're finally beginning to see some of the tough decisions we made pay off," the president said. "And if we had listened to the cynics and the naysayers — if we had simply done what the politics of the moment required — none of this progress would have happened."
But Obama saved his strongest words for Senate Republicans, who he blamed for blocking a small-business jobs package from passing this week. Senate Democrats badly wanted the measure to pass in order to tout it back home to their constituents, but they were unable to attract a single GOP vote to break a filibuster that ultimately prompted Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) to ditch his efforts to clear the bill.
"As we work to rebuild our economy, I can't imagine anything more common-sense than giving additional tax breaks and badly needed lending assistance to America's small-business owners so they can grow and hire," Obama said, making the case for the legislation that twice was blocked by Republican filibusters last week.
On Friday, Reid said he was "hopeful" to finish the small-business measure next week before the Senate adjourns for the August recess. But with no Republican coming forward to declare support just yet, that appears an unlikely scenario. That didn't stop Obama from making his own plea.
"I'm calling on the Republican leaders in the Senate to stop holding America's small businesses hostage to politics, and allow an up-or-down vote on this small-business jobs bill," he said.