WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is set to speak to Senate Democrats to discuss strategy ahead of crucial mid-term elections, five days after a heated exchange with Republican representatives.
The televised address at Washington's Newseum comes a day after Obama highlighted his new top domestic priority of curbing unemployment, detailing a 30-billion-dollar loan program to help small businesses.
The meeting with the president's fellow Democrats, set to get underway at 10:00 am (1500 GMT), will focus on "policy, strategy and message for the coming year," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office said in a statement.
It follows a highly unusual televised question-and-answer session on Friday, where Obama told his Republicans foes they should not just oppose him for political gain, warning that elected officials should care more about jobs of voters than their own.
All seats in the House of Representatives and a third of Senate seats are up for grabs in November's mid-term elections, where the Democratic majority is bracing for significant losses.
Facing voter anger at double-digit unemployment and his stalled health care overhaul, Obama has vowed a renewed focus on job creation.
"Today one in 10 Americans still can't find work. That's why jobs has to be our number one focus in 2010. And we're going to start where most new jobs start -- with small businesses," Obama said Tuesday.
He took his message to the northeastern state of New Hampshire, talking up his program to create thousands of jobs by freeing up capital via tax credits and community-based bank loans.
The president's proposed tax credit would affect more than one million small businesses -- which he says have created roughly 65 percent of all new jobs in the past 15 years or so -- while providing tax incentives to enable other firms to invest in new plants and equipment.
The program would also eliminate capital gains taxes on small business investment, freeing up capital for hiring and reinvestment.
The funds for the loans would come from money repaid by big Wall Street banks, and will be used to create a lending fund for "community banks on Main Street," Obama told a townhall-styled forum in Nashua.
The White House said the money will be transferred from the 700-billion-dollar Troubled Asset Relief Program, which bailed out failing banking, insurance and auto giants.
The program came under fire from Republicans in Congress.
"That proposal violates the law!" a red-faced Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire lectured Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag, who testified at a US Senate budget committee on Obama's 3.8-trillion-dollar budget for 2011.
The budget blueprint also calls for an additional 100 billion dollars in spending to bring down unemployment and boost overall economic activity.
"You should at least have the integrity to say that this will increase the deficit," Gregg told Orszag.
Orszag said Congress would need to first amend the law, but defended the measure as generating jobs.
The initiative comes with the US president newly focused on lowering America's soaring 10 percent unemployment rate, after his previous domestic priority of healthcare reform stalled.
Obama's health care overhaul program was put on hold after Republicans last month seized a Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts, making it unlikely that ruling Democrats would have a sufficient number of votes to pass the plan.
While the financial system has stabilized after near collapse in 2008, small businesses complain that access to credit remains tight, which has hampered job growth.
© AFP 2013