Senate Democrats Overcome GOP Filibuster of Small Business Bill

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

Senate Democrats today overcame a summer-long Republican filibuster of a bill to jumpstart job growth by providing small businesses with a $30 billion lending fund and around $12 billion in tax relief.

The vote to end debate on the small business measure was 61-37, paving the way for it to obtain final passage in the Senate later this week. The newfound support of Republicans George Voinovich of Ohio and George Lemieux of Florida was key in helping Democrats end the GOP blockade, after they came up only one vote during their last stab at passing the bill in late July when lawmakers voted strictly along party lines.

The bill would establish a $30 billion small business lending facility run by the Treasury Department and provide another $12 billion in tax relief. Smaller banks – with under $10 billion in assets – would use the Treasury fund to extend loans to small businesses, helping get these companies back on their feet and hiring new workers. The fund, proponents say, could help leverage up to $300 billion in loans, a massive boost in loosening tight credit markets. Democrats have estimated that the bill could ultimately help create up to 700,000 new jobs.

“Small businesses are the engine that drives our economy and they need help,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor today.

“This,” said Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus, “is exactly the kind of targeted job-creating legislation that folks are telling us to do, telling us to enact, and we ought to get it done.”

But throughout the summer Republicans had argued that the Treasury lending fund is a “mini-TARP,” tying it to the unpopular Wall Street bailout. Earlier this month, the top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell even derided the measure as “a little itty-bitty small business bill that no one thinks will have much of an impact on the economy.”

Before today’s procedural vote, senators voted against an amendment from Republican Mike Johanns that would have repealed a tax-reporting mandate in the health care law that GOP critics deemed burdensome and costly, but Democrats viewed the move as a bid to kill the Prevention & Public Health Fund. Senators also shot down a Democratic alternative from Bill Nelson to make businesses with under 25 employees exempt from the new tax-reporting requirement and to increase the reporting trigger from $600 to $5,000. The changes had the support of the White House.

After the small business bill passes the Senate in the coming days, it will still have to be approved by the House since the version passed by the lower chamber earlier this summer differs from the one emerging from the Senate.

Next up for the Senate once it clears the measure will be the 2011 defense authorization bill, triggering a debate over the repeal of the military's controversial Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.

- Matthew Jaffe

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