Two Senate Republicans defect to help pass small business bill

In a brief instance of cooperation under the Capitol dome, a small business bill was actually approved in the Senate. Image: CC Greg Palmer/Flickr

Few who understand Congress expected lawmakers to succeed in passing a small business bill before the November midterm elections. But two Republican senators who are not seeking re-election crossed party lines to give Democrats the votes they needed. After a summer of partisan bickering, the Senate passed a small business bill Thursday. The legislation aims to improve access to credit and provide tax relief for small businesses, which policymakers say create a majority of new jobs. The bill now heads to the House, where it is expected to quickly pass.

Small business lending and tax breaks

The small business bill that finally passed the Senate Thursday features the creation of a $30 billion lending fund directed to regional banks for small business lending. Republicans called the fund another taxpayer bailout like the Troubled Asset Relief Program. However the Wall Street Journal reports that unlike TARP, banks actually volunteer to participate in the new small business lending program. The interest rate banks are charged for the money is tied to how much they use it to increase their small business lending. The small business bill also includes about $12 billion in business tax breaks, including an immediate write-off of 50 percent for new equipment purchases in 2010 for all businesses. The amount of new investment that small businesses are allowed to expense in 2010 and 2011 will double to $500,000.

Retiring Republicans choose principle over party

The House passed a version of the small business bill earlier this year. The Los Angeles Times reports that business entities expected to support the bill, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Businesses, instead chose to use the legislation as a vehicle to weaken the new healthcare reform law. Republicans filibustered the small business bill in July, demanding the to add amendments unrelated to the objectives of the legislation. At one point, frustrated House members staged a sit-in at the Senate chamber to protest the delays. Finally months of partisan gridlock were overcome by Republicans George LeMieux of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio, senators who are not seeking re-election. They joined 57 Democrats and two independents to pass the measure 61-38.

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