WASHINGTON (9/1/11)--Strengthening small businesses will be at the center of President Barack Obama’s planned economic speech, which is tentatively scheduled to take place next week before a joint session of Congress, and the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) continues to speak out on how expanding credit union member business lending (MBL) authority would help small businesses and the economy at large. The president requested that his speech take place at 8 p.m. ET on Sept. 7, but House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested Obama move the speech to Sept. 8. A Republican presidential candidate debate is set to take place on Sept. 7. Obama previewed portions of his speech in a letter to members of Congress saying he planned to “lay out a series of bipartisan proposals” that can be taken on immediately “to continue to rebuild the American economy by strengthening small businesses.” The proposals will also focus on “helping Americans get back to work, and putting more money in the paychecks of the Middle Class and working Americans, while still reducing our deficit and getting our fiscal house in order,” Obama added. CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney made the case for increasing the MBL cap this week in an interview on CNN Money, noting that while banks claim there is low demand for small business credit, credit unions have witnessed a 30% increase in their MBLs. Cheney also reached out directly to the president in August, urging Obama in a letter to encourage Congress to pass MBL cap lift legislation in the fall legislative session. "As the economy continues to recover from the financial crisis, Americans need credit unions now more than ever," Cheney wrote. Legislation to allow increased credit union MBL is "job-creation legislation that costs the taxpayers nothing and could help employ over 140,000 Americans in the next year, and many more in years to come," Cheney added. The MBL cap increase would also provide $13 billion in new credit for small businesses in the first year of enactment, according to CUNA figures. Obama also heard the call to lift the cap face to face from The University of Iowa Community CU CEO Jeff Disterhoft. Disterhoft addressed the MBL issue with Obama during a White House Rural Economic Forum at Northeast Iowa Community College in Peosta, Iowa, last month, and he reported that the president “promised to go back to Washington and look further into it." Among many other efforts to promote an MBL cap lift, CUNA will launch its Hike the Hill effort this month, and high on the list of topics that credit unions will discuss with their federal lawmakers are bills pending in the House and Senate that would lift the MBL cap to 27.5% of assets, up from 12.25%. About 450 credit union advocates are expected to visit Capitol Hill lawmakers in September and October alone.