Obama Hails Small Businesses as GOP Hammers on Health Care Bill
President Barack Obama in his weekly address Saturday pivoted away from health care, discussing instead how he believes his overall agenda will help small businesses. But in the Republican address, Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.) stuck closely to the health care debate.As negotiations on Capitol Hill have entered a critical phase, the president has mostly eschewed the type of public events and rallies that characterized his effort until a few weeks ago. But his weekly addresses have largely stuck to the topic.Obama in his latest remarks sought to celebrate small-business entrepreneurs. “They embody the spirit of possibility, the relentless work ethic and the hope for something better that is at the heart of the American Dream,— he said. The president noted that many have fallen on hard times, saying the stimulus passed early this year was designed to help.“The Recovery Act was designed to help small businesses expand and create jobs,— he said. “It’s provided $5 billion worth of tax relief, as well as temporarily reducing or eliminating fees on SBA loans and guaranteeing some of these loans up to 90 percent, which has supported nearly $13 billion in new lending to more than 33,000 businesses.—Touching briefly on his health care plan, he said his proposals would help small businesses buy insurance.The president noted that he has called on Congress to increase the maximum size of some Small Business Administration loans and that he will be taking steps to make more credit available to local banks that small businesses depend on.“These are the very taxpayers who stood by America’s banks in a crisis — and now it’s time for our banks to stand by creditworthy small businesses and make the loans they need to open their doors, grow their operations and create new jobs,— Obama said. “It’s time for those banks to fulfill their responsibility to help ensure a wider recovery, a more secure system and more broadly shared prosperity. And we’re going to take every appropriate step to encourage them to meet those responsibilities.—But Johanns painted a dire prospect for a broad spectrum of the population if Democratic-backed legislation passes. Johanns said a “working mother with a disabled child— will see flexible spending accounts altered and incur increased out-of-pocket costs, while “the factory worker— will watch as premiums go up.“To the recent college graduate burdened with student loans: You’ll be forced to buy health insurance the government mandates, and if you refuse, you’ll be hit with a penalty,— Johanns said. “To our seniors who wish to receive care in the comfort of their homes: Funding for hospice care and home health care services would be cut,— he said, adding that “Nearly $500 billion will be cut from Medicare nationwide.—Johanns added that although Obama promised negotiations on C-SPAN, “a 1,500-page bill, full of carve-outs and backroom deals, is currently being brokered behind closed doors.—Amid a growing campaign to portray Republicans as the “party of no— that fails to offer alternatives, Johanns makes only passing reference to GOP ideas on health care.“Republicans are in favor of lowering costs, reforming insurance so Americans can get care when they need it and providing assistance for those who can’t afford insurance,— he said.