House Democrats set to push party's small-business agenda this week

House Democrats are planning a coordinated effort to highlight the party's small-business agenda this week, hoping to build momentum for stalled jobs legislation while hammering Republicans for obstructionism.


As part of the push, Democratic incumbents and candidates are scheduling business-themed campaign events throughout the country. With an eye toward boosting its chances in November, the party also plans to release a report highlighting accomplishments by freshman and sophomore lawmakers — many of whom are the most vulnerable this fall.

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“House Democrats are going to use next week to aggressively tout steps taken to assist small businesses and urge the Republicans to end their obstruction of an important small-business lending bill already passed by the House and waiting for action in the Senate,” a Democratic leadership aide said last week.

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Carl Levin (D-Mich.), will hold a conference call Tuesday to push the legislation and highlight small-business tax cuts included in other bills that have already passed. The bill before the Senate would provide more than $12 billion in tax breaks and create a $30 billion government lending program for small businesses, as well as expand other loan initiatives. The House passed versions of the legislation on a party-line vote, but unified GOP opposition blocked it in the Senate.

President Obama chastised Republicans in remarks Thursday at the White House, noting the bill includes ideas from both parties and is deficit-neutral. “A majority of senators are in favor of the bill, and yet the obstruction continues,” the president said. “It’s obstruction that stands in the way of small-business owners getting the loans and the tax cuts that they need to prosper. It’s obstruction that defies common sense.”

Senate Republican leaders have said they don’t oppose the core of the bill but object to extraneous spending that Democrats have added to it. They also protested Democrats’ refusal to consider more than three GOP amendments to the bill.

“It was very clear from the beginning there was a path for this bill to pass with a broad bipartisan majority,” the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said in a floor speech last month.

Democrats, he said, have been “adding either controversial or completely unrelated matters to this bill — all to avoid any real debate and to avoid voting on Republican amendments.”

The focus on small business heading into the fall campaign is a time-honored political strategy, as Democrats reach for a constituency that has long been a popular ally of both parties. But Democrats have struggled to command attention to the bread-and-butter issues they have highlighted during the August recess, hampered by negative economic data and the distraction caused by the debate over a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.