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Obama, corporate giants announce plan to boost suppliers

By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama is enlisting several major U.S. and multinational companies to draw attention to an initiative aimed at helping small businesses expand and hire workers.

The president will meet on Friday with representatives of household name firms such as Apple , AT&T , Coca Cola and Johnson & Johnson to spotlight the corporate giants' pledge to pay their smaller suppliers within 15 days.

The speedy payout puts more money in the coffers of smaller firms and helps them invest and hire workers, the president and his aides say.

For the larger companies, the initiative ensures that their own suppliers are robust and "demonstrates a recognition that a healthy supply chain is good for business," the White House said in a statement.

Frustrated by a legislative stalemate with the Republican-led House of Representatives, Obama has vowed to act unilaterally when he can to achieve his agenda, and the announcement Friday is typical of the sorts of modest initiatives the White House has unveiled.

This approach has antagonized congressional Republicans who say the president has overstepped executive branch authority.

House Republicans on Thursday made public a "discussion draft" of legislation to authorize legal action against the president for misusing executive orders and other unilateral actions to advance his agenda.

The supplier initiative is based on a similar program for government contractors. The federal government promises to pay contractors quickly if those companies in turn commit to rapidly pay the smaller firms that supply them.

The White House says that arrangement affected 172,000 small businesses and generated over $1 billion for them to invest and hire workers since it was launched three years ago. The president was due to renew that program on Friday as well as announcing the public sector initiative.

Other firms attending the White House event include CVS , FedEx , IBM , Lockheed Martin , and Walgreens .

Honda <7267.T>, Toyota <7203.T>, Rolls Royce , Ericsson , and Westinghouse <6502.T> are also among the corporate participants in the White House event.

(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Ken Wills)

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