President Obama will travel to New Jersey on Wednesday as part of an effort to refute Republican assertions that he is anti-business.
The campaign comes fewer than 100 days before midterm elections, which are expected to be dominated by economy concerns.
Republicans and business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have driven home the message that the Obama administration is curtailing private-sector growth. They point to tax increases proposed by the White House as well as an uncertain regulatory environment brought about by massive reforms to the healthcare sector and Wall Street.
Businesses are said to be sitting on $2 trillion in income but are not hiring, partly because of the administration’s policies, according to Republicans.
Obama on Wednesday will meet with small-business owners at the Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, N.J., where he will stress his support for a package of small-business tax cuts the Senate is considering.
He’ll also travel to Detroit on Friday to visit General Motors and Chrysler plants, and to Chicago the following week to visit a Ford assembly plant. Those visits will focus on green energy and Obama’s efforts to help U.S. automakers.
Obama argues the tax incentives in the Senate small-business package would help businesses grow by allowing them to access credit to open a new location, buy new equipment and hire more workers.
Obama hopes to sign the legislation before the August recess so that members can tout the help to small businesses during the break.
The trip to New Jersey is part of a concerted effort by the White House to play up the small-business bill in the face of arguments that Obama is anti-business. The White House is worried about polls that suggest voters lack confidence in Obama’s handling of the economy.
Obama brought up the legislation last week in televised remarks from the White House, and again on Tuesday during Rose Garden comments that followed a meeting with House and Senate leaders.
“These are the kind of common-sense steps that folks from both parties have supported in the past — steps to cut taxes and spur private-sector growth and investment,” Obama said Tuesday.
“And I hope that in the coming days, we’ll once again find common ground and get this legislation passed. We shouldn’t let America’s small businesses be held hostage to partisan politics — and certainly not at this critical time.”
Obama has been targeted by business groups for much of the year, but the effort has intensified since the signing of healthcare reform in the spring and Wall Street reform last week.
Earlier this month, the Chamber of Commerce in an open letter to the White House said it had turned its back on business and taken its eye off the economy. It blasted Obama for racking up huge deficits, expanding the size of government and offering tax increases, all of which it argued had helped keep unemployment high by destroying jobs.
Republicans have also seized on the message, arguing Obama is not keeping his eye on jobs, the No. 1 priority for the country.
The small-business push is meant to fight back at those contentions, but is complicated by other upcoming fights.
The White House on Monday signaled it is strongly considering the nomination of Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenSinema's office outlines opposition to tax rate hikes The CFPB's data overreach hurts the businesses it claims to help Runaway higher ed spending gains little except endless student debt MORE as first chairwoman of the new consumer protection office created by the Wall Street reform bill.
The White House faces pressure from the left to appoint Warren, who received a standing ovation over the weekend at the liberal Netroots Nation convention. But Warren’s nomination would be opposed by Republicans and banks, who worry the frequent Wall Street critic will be an overly aggressive regulator.
On taxes, the White House continues to support the end of tax cuts first approved under the Bush administration for all individuals making at least $200,000 and families making $250,000. Business groups argue this would hurt small businesses and stifle growth.