President Barack Obama chowed down on a sub with the works at a New Jersey sandwich shop Wednesday, and then dished up a strong endorsement of small-business legislation for dessert.
Meeting with a group of small-business owners over lunch, Obama continued to apply pressure to the Senate, urging lawmakers to take up a bill that would increase lending as well as promote hiring and growth.
“I expect them to get this done before they go on vacation,” Obama said after the meeting at the Tastee Sub Shop in Edison, his latest event to underscore his commitment to business. “This is as American as apple pie.”
The bill contains $30 billion to help community banks lend to small businesses and $12 billion in tax breaks designed for small businesses, and it would reauthorize a number of expired provisions from last year’s Recovery Act. The bill would raise the cap on Small Business Administration loans from $2 million to $5 million, as well as allow the SBA to waive its fees on borrowers and increase its guarantees to banks that lend to small businesses.
SBA spokeswoman Hayley Matz said that the bill would help bolster the shaky economic recovery by encouraging businesses to expand and add jobs.
“SBA needs larger loan sizes,” she told POLITICO. “We need to continue what works. Even though we’ve seen the economy start to recover, now is not the time to pull back ... It’s time for [small businesses] to lead us out of the recession, as they have in previous recessions.”
But Republicans pushed back, warning against hastily passing the legislation and complaining that Senate Democrats have blocked them from adding amendments.
“There are obvious concerns thus far. No Republican amendments have been offered. There are concerns about that,” said Kyle Hines, a spokesman for Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho, a member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Risch “has some concerns, and there are some provisions he likes right now,” Hines said.
Sen. Richard Shelby of Alabama warned on the Senate floor that increasing government-backed loans “would continue the majority’s assault on American business by having the government dictate how and to whom loans are made.”
“The lack of credit for small business is a problem that needs to be addressed,” he said. “I do not, however, believe we should try to solve this problem with another expensive and bureaucratic government program.”
After arriving at the sandwich shop, where some local residents had been waiting since Tuesday night for a chance to meet him, Obama asked an employee how business was going. “We’ve weathered the storm fairly well,” the employee said.
In order for businesses such as sandwich shop to continue thriving, Obama said, the Senate must approve the legislation, which the House passed last month.
“These are the kind of common-sense steps that folks from both parties have supported in the past,” Obama said. “We shouldn’t let America’s small businesses be held hostage to partisan politics, and certainly not at this critical time.”
The Senate vote could be its last significant accomplishment before the August recess. When senators return in September, campaigning for November’s midterm elections will be in full swing.
After leaving Edison, Obama headed to New York City for two Democratic National Committee fundraisers. Both events cost $30,400 per ticket, and are expected to raise $2 million.