President Barack Obama will appeal to U.S. business leaders on Wednesday to back his push to create jobs as he defends his agenda against conservative critics seeking to paint him as a big spender.
Obama will make his pitch to the Business Roundtable, a grouping of top chief executives, amid unease in the business community about his economic and budget policies and his legislative drive for healthcare and financial regulatory reform.
Seeking to overcome skepticism, Obama will try to balance his message between boosting the still-fragile economy and instilling fiscal discipline, according to advance excerpts of a speech to be given at 1 p.m. (1800 GMT) in Washington.
But aides say Obama, who has alarmed business leaders with populist-tinged denunciations of big executive bonuses, will also reiterate his determination to tighten tax rules to prevent firms from benefiting from exporting jobs overseas.
We need to build an economy where we borrow less and produce more, Obama will say. We need an economy where we generate more jobs here at home and send more products overseas.
Obama's focus on jobs comes as Democratic lawmakers work to get a job-creating bill through Congress. After weeks of partisan bickering, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on Tuesday he planned to bring up the $15 billion package of tax cuts and highway spending for a vote this week.
Obama and his fellow Democrats are determined to bring down the 9.7 percent unemployment rate in the United States before congressional elections in November.
They also face a potential voter backlash over the hundreds of billions of dollars they approved last year to blunt the impact of the worst recession in 70 years.
Republicans seeking to wrest control of Congress from the Democrats have tried to score points by accusing Obama of overspending to expand the reach of government. The Democrats' recent loss of their Senate supermajority has stalled Obama's healthcare and financial regulatory efforts for now.
HEALTHCARE SUMMIT LOOMS
Obama's speech will come one day before he hosts a bipartisan healthcare summit in his uphill battle to break an impasse over a sweeping overhaul of the troubled $2.5 trillion industry. Republicans charge that Obama is trying to socialize the healthcare system, something he strongly denies.
Pushing his agenda, Obama will seek to remind business leaders -- as he often does in his speeches -- of the daunting challenges he faces in overcoming the economic mess inherited from his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
I think all of us know that we cannot meet them by returning to the pre-crisis status quo -- an economy too dependent on a housing bubble, consumer debt, financial speculation and growing deficits, he will say.
He will also call for an end to ideological rancor, insisting on the need to stop hurling accusations about big government liberals or mean-spirited conservatives and to move past crippling divides between left and right, business and labor.
It's not about being anti-business or pro-government. It's about being pro-growth and pro-jobs, Obama will say.
Obama's speech will follow a private dinner on Tuesday -- the latest in his outreach to the business sector -- with more than a dozen corporate chiefs from the Business Roundtable.
They included Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Kenneth Chenault of American Express, Randall Stephenson of AT&T, Jim McNerney of Boeing, Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon Communications, David Cote of Honeywell, Antonio Perez of Kodak, Michael Duke of Wal-Mart, Ursula Burns of Xerox and Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, a White House official said. (Editing by John O'Callaghan)