President Barack Obama on Wednesday cast his latest economic pitch as a matter of patriotism, urging the Senate to ditch its partisan mode at least long enough to pass a package of tax cuts and loan relief for small businesses. "This is as American as apple pie," the president said.
On his way to his own political activity — two high-dollar fundraisers for Democrats — Obama sought his own classic American setting. He ate a meat-stacked sandwich and then spoke at the Tastee Sub Shop, a tiny one-story building meant to serve as the essence of the American small business.
In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was hoping to schedule a Senate vote on the small business bill for Wednesday evening, though he would need Republican support for a vote that soon. Republican leaders said they would like the opportunity to offer amendments to the measure.
"Surely, Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to agree on this bill," Obama said despite the consistent lack of any such consensus on Capitol Hill. Obama said he told Republican leaders at the White House a day earlier that key elements of the bill are ones that the GOP has supported for years.
"Helping small businesses, cutting taxes, making credit available," Obama said from a presidential lectern that had been brought into the restaurant. "This is as American as apple pie. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy. They are central to our identity as a nation. They are going to lead this recovery."
The bill in question is designed to help small businesses get the capital they need to buy equipment, hire workers and expand their operations. Obama took the opportunity to recite the stories of local business owners and tout his efforts to help them before acknowledging that more government help is needed.
A short time earlier, Obama stepped up to the counter and ordered a "Super Sub," which is packed with a variety of sandwich meats. The president begged off on getting the 12-inch version, noting that he is about to turn 49 and needs to go for a sandwich one-half the size.
The business message was but a stop on Obama's broader mission on Wednesday. He was stepping up his fundraising efforts as the midterm elections draw closer and Democrats need money to battle a Republican Party energized in part by voter concern over government spending and regulations.
In New York, Obama was to tape an interview on the daytime talk show "The View" that will air on Thursday. And then he was attending fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.
Asked about the image of Obama's attending ritzy fundraisers while much of the country is still struggling with the recession, White House spokesman Bill Burton said: "Obviously we're focused on the economy today. This evening the president is doing what the president traditionally does, which is helping to raise money for the campaign season as things approach."
Overall, Obama is headlining four Democratic fundraisers in three days and hosting another four events next week. For now he's playing it safe, appearing at events in noncompetitive states or in a friendly if competitive place, his home state of Illinois.
White House officials say Obama will campaign vigorously throughout the nation ahead of the fall elections. At stake is control of the House and Senate.