From NBC's Mark Murray
Continuing with his recent populist rhetoric, President Obama today said he urged executives from the nation's largest banks to begin issuing more loans to small businesses and to support the financial reform legislation moving through Congress.
"America's banks received extraordinary assistance from American taxpayers to rebuild their industry," he said after a hosting a White House meeting today with representatives from 12 banking institutions. "And now that they're back on their feet, we expect an extraordinary commitment from them to help rebuild our economy."
The president explained that he has heard from many small businesses that they have been unable to get loans in today's economic climate. "Now no one wants banks making the kinds of risky loans that got us into this situation in the first place," he said. "But given the difficulty businesspeople are having as lending has declined, and given the exceptional assistance banks received to get them through a difficult time, we expect them to explore every responsible way to help get our economy moving again."
Obama added, "We expect some results, because I'm getting too many letters from small businesses who explain that they are credit-worthy."
The president also relayed that he told the bank executives to get behind the financial reform legislation the House of Representatives approved last week and the Senate is still considering -- or be prepared for a fight.
"I made very clear that I have no intention of letting their lobbyists thwart reforms necessary to protect the American people. If they wish to fight common-sense consumer protections, that's a fight I'm more than willing to have."
Obama's statement today after his meeting with the bank executives comes after his interview on "60 Minutes" last night, in which he said, "The people on Wall Street still don't get it. They're puzzled why is it that people are mad at the banks. Well, let's see -- you guys are drawing down 10-, 20-million-dollar bonuses after American went through the worst economic year in decades and you guys caused the problem."