Obama Urges Senate to Pass Small Business Bill

President Barack Obama on Thursday urged the U.S. Senate to pass a stalled small business lending bill, saying recent weak economic data underscores even more the need for the legislation.

Obama was speaking after new data showed U.S. claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed to a nine-month high last week, dealing a fresh blow to the frail economy.He again lambasted Republicans in the Senate for repeatedly blocking the bill, saying their actions were obstructing vital aid for small businesses.

"This is a bill that makes sense and normally we would expect Democrats and Republicans to join together," Obama said at the White House. "Unfortunately, a partisan minority in the Senate so far has refused to allow this jobs bill to come up for a vote."

Republicans are upset that Democrats shut them out during discussions to amend the package, which they say is another example of too much government spending.

The bill provides for a $30 billion fund to invest in community banks to bolster lending. It also would provide tax credits and a limited capital gains exemption.

Small businesses, which account for two-thirds of jobs created in the United States, have been hit hard by the credit crunch, making it difficult for them to expand.

"They need help and if we want this economy to create more jobs more quickly we need to help them," Obama said.