(CNN) -- A law initially opposed by Republicans has provided 3,600 small businesses with more than $1.4 billion in new loans since taking effect, President Barack Obama said Monday.
In remarks to workers at a Rhode Island manufacturing plant company, Obama touted his administration's steps to bolster small business growth as part of its economic recovery strategy. His visit came eight days before congressional elections expected to bring Republican gains in both chambers.
Obama cited 16 tax breaks for small businesses, including a credit for providing health insurance to workers, and noted the new law he signed in September already was making a difference.
"In less than a month since that new law took effect, more than 3,600 small business owners have already received more than $1.4 billion worth of new loans," Obama said.
He noted that the measure included tax breaks for small businesses and other provisions traditionally favored by Republicans, but GOP opposition held up its passage for months.
"I will confess I wish that Republican leaders in Congress had agreed earlier," Obama said, later adding that he hoped "my friends on the other side of the aisle are going to change their minds going forward."
Congressional Republicans criticized the measure as a form of bailout for small businesses. The bill only won Senate approval when two retiring Republicans broke from their caucus and voted with Democrats to move it forward.
Obama's remarks at the American Cord & Webbing Co. in Woonsocket allowed him to boast about how the government's Small Business Administration provided a loan that will help the company expand.
He joked that the company, which makes cords, buckles and plastic and metal hardware for sporting goods, outdoor goods, and travel gear, had "buckled down" to weather the recession.
"That's a pun," Obama said to laughter from the workers.