‘Out there to talk about the economy’

‘OUT THERE TO TALK ABOUT THE ECONOMY’…. Last week, in the midst of several discouraging economic developments, White House officials recognized the need to sharpen its message a bit. They just weren’t sure when.

Yesterday, President Obama was in New Orleans for the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Tomorrow is an Oval Office address on Iraq. Later this week, the focus will be on Middle East peace talks. One official told ABC late last week, “We know he needs to be out there to talk about the economy next week. We haven’t yet figured out the way he’s going to do that.”

So, this afternoon, the president appeared in the Rose Garden to talk up economic policy in general, and chide Republicans for blocking the small-business-incentives bill in specific.

On his first workday back at the White House after a 10-day Martha’s Vineyard vacation and a trip to New Orleans on Sunday, Mr. Obama addressed the nation’s mounting economic anxieties in brief remarks from the Rose Garden. With the unemployment rate stuck above 9 percent, and the economic recovery all but stalled, he spent part of the morning huddled with his economic advisers.

While he said he and his team are “hard at work in identifying additional measures that could make a difference” — including extending middle-class tax cuts that are set to expire this year, investing more in clean energy and in infrastructure rebuilding — the president’s most urgent call was directed at members of Congress, who return to work next week.

“This bill has been languishing in the Senate for four months, held up by a partisan minority that won’t even allow it to go to a vote. That makes no sense,” Mr. Obama said, referring to the small business initiative. He added, “Holding this bill hostage is directly detrimental to our economic growth.”

That last point was bolstered by a new USA Today report, which the president made reference to, explaining that about 1,000 small businesses are ready to expand, but are waiting for Senate Republicans to stop playing petty games.

Following up on what we talked about yesterday, though, is there any reason to think the White House may put forward any kind of new economic policies and/or stimulus and/or jobs bill? It’s hard to say exactly — there almost certainly won’t be one, ambitious package on the way, but Obama raised the specter of “additional measures.”

Specifically, the president said, “[A]s Congress prepares to return to session, my economic team is hard at work in 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 — steps like extending the tax cuts for the middle class that are set to expire this year; redoubling our investment in clean energy and R&D; rebuilding more of our infrastructure for the future; further tax cuts to encourage businesses to put their capital to work creating jobs here in the United States. And I’ll be addressing these proposals in further detail in the days and weeks to come.”

I wouldn’t necessarily interpret this as “new economic plan on the way,” but it’s something to keep an eye on.