WASHINGTON - Acknowledging that the economy remains fragile, President Obama on Monday called on Congress to pass a package of aid for small business and said he would soon propose additional steps to promote hiring and economic growth.
The president said Congress should make passage of a long-languishing small business aid package its first order of business when it returns on Sept. 13 from its summer break.
"I ask Senate Republicans to drop the blockade," Obama said in the Rose Garden after meeting with his economic advisers.
The legislation, already passed by the House, would provide $12 billion in tax breaks, ease terms for loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration and create a $30 billion fund to help community banks extend credit. The Senate is due to take up the bill when it returns.
As for other ideas to help the economy, he mentioned extending Bush tax cuts due to expire this year for households making less than $250,000 a year, upping the nation's investment in clean energy, rebuilding more roads and highways, and enacting tax cuts designed to keep jobs in the United States.
"My economic team is hard at work identifying additional measures that could make a difference in both promoting growth and hiring in the short term and increasing our economy's competitiveness in the long term," he said.
The nation's unemployment rate, at 9.5 percent in July, remains stubbornly high and is restraining overall economic growth.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs later said that in addition to initiatives already unveiled and now stalled in Congress, the administration would roll out a variety of targeted measures designed to spur the economy and create an environment conducive to hiring.
None of the measures will be as major as last year's $814 billion stimulus bill, Gibbs said. "There's only so much that can be done," he added.
"Those in America are frustrated. Those in the West Wing are frustrated" about the slow pace of recovery from the recession that began in December 2007, Gibbs said.
House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio is among the Republicans who say the stimulus has failed and argue that Obama's policies should be rolled back.
Gibbs offered no clues to how far-reaching any new proposals might be. He said Obama would spell them out over the next several weeks and before the midterm elections in November.
In his remarks, the president said there is no "silver bullet" that would undo the damage caused by the recession.
In a week likely to be dominated by foreign policy, Obama is trying to show he's still minding the economy after his 10-day vacation in Martha's Vineyard.
A string of weak economic reports recently has fed fears that the economy would fall back into recession.