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MACON, Mo. (AP) -- President Barack Obama on Wednesday pleaded for commonsense financial reforms to prevent some of the risky Wall Street behavior that contributed to the economic near-meltdown.
His appeal came as Senate Democratic leaders failed for the third time in three days to get the necessary votes to move ahead on regulatory legislation in the face of unified Republican opposition. Obama's remarks also came one day after lawmakers excoriated Goldman Sachs executives for "unbridled greed" for their business practices.
On the second-day of his visit to three corn-growing states, Obama also said he wants U.S. ethanol production to triple in 12 years, in part to make the nation less dependent on foreign oil.
He made the remarks after touring the POET Biorefining plant in Macon, Mo. A day earlier in Iowa, Obama had toured a plant that builds wind turbines.
Obama's visit to Missouri, Illinois and Iowa has the look and feel of a political campaign, with camera-friendly stops for pie and burgers. It focuses on several economic fronts. The president is pushing greater investments in renewable energy, better education that can lead to new jobs, and tighter controls on Wall Street.
Obama is not on the ballot this fall, but his fellow Democrats face a tough landscape brought on in part by the public's wariness of his handling of the economy. The president and Democratic lawmakers see an opportunity to paint Republicans as obstructionists who stand on the side of Wall Street bankers, not middle-class America.
In Macon, Obama called for "commonsense reform that prevents the irresponsibility of a few people on Wall Street from wreaking havoc" on everyone else.
Much of this trip through the heartland is about Obama explaining how his administration's agenda over the past 15 months would benefit the middle class, sometimes delivering that message one person at a time. After picking up a cheeseburger and french fries Wednesday at Peggy Sue's Cafe on Main Street in tiny Monroe City, Mo., Obama stopped to greet a small group of employees at a local insurance agency across the street.
The impromptu handshakes turned into a 15-minute discussion of Obama's health care overhaul's benefits for people with preexisting conditions -- much to the chagrin of the much larger crowd waiting nearby.
The president's Midwest tour comes as economic forecasts show some signs of progress: The nation added jobs at the fastest pace in three years last month, the manufacturing industry is growing at a steady pace and new claims for jobless benefits have declined.
But 15 million Americans remain out of work, and most economic forecasts suggest it could be months or even years before the nation's unemployment rate returns to more normal levels.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)