Amid rising jobless claims, Obama hits GOP for blocking small-business bill

For the second time in three days, President Obama sharply criticized Republicans for holding up small-business legislation in the Senate.

Obama made his comments just before he was scheduled to depart on a 10-day vacation to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.

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"This is a bill that makes sense, and [I] would expect Republicans and Democrats to come together" but "a partisan minority has blocked it from coming up," Obama said.

The president said he can understand when Republicans and Democrats disagree on the merits of legislation, but "this is not one of those times."

"A majority of senators are in favor of the bill, and yet the obstruction continues," he added. "It's obstruction that defies common sense."

Obama's statement came after the Labor Department on Thursday released disappointing news about joblessness: Initial claims for unemployment jumped by 12,000, to 500,000, last week. Most economists had expected claims to drop.

Unemployment and the economy are expected to be the top issues on the campaign trail this November, and Democrats have hammered away at Republican policies while claiming that their agenda is slowly but surely restoring the economy to health.

The president said the Labor Department report "compels us to act, and compels us to stand with the small-businessmen and -women" because they are the chief engines for hiring.

"There will be plenty of times between now and November to play politics; now is not one of those times," Obama said. "When Congress reconvenes, this legislation will be the first business out of the gate."

Republicans had refused to support the measure, saying the Democratic leadership did not allow them to introduce enough amendments. They also accused Democrats of not handling the bill as if it were a priority.

A cloture vote to end debate on the bill failed without any GOP support before the Senate recessed for August.

“It takes a lot of effort to make a partisan issue out of a bill that should have broad bipartisan support. But our friends on the other side have outdone themselves," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said. "We first got on this bill in late June, and since then, Democrats have set it aside six separate times to move to something else — we’ll take it up again in September when the Senate returns."