Parties could break impasse on small-business lending bill

Despite the perpetual stall in the Senate of a small-business lending and tax-cut bill, there is still a sense among Democrats and Republicans that passing a measure is possible before leaving for the August recess.

The Senate has one week of work left before a long summer break and has a full agenda, including completion of the Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan.

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Democratic and Republican aides said Friday they were still trying to reach an accord, leaving the possibility that a bill could be ready this week.

“Absolutely. And we’re hoping that Democrats refuse temptation to turn away from small-business legislation again, hoping they’ll help us finish the bill this time," said one GOP aide.

Senate leaders failed to reach an agreement on amendments Thursday night. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) each amended previous requests, but the changes weren't enough to move the bill that would provide $12 billion in tax breaks and expand credit access for small businesses.

Democrats have agreed to consider three Republican amendments — one by Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), a one-year extension on research and development tax credits; a second by Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) on the biodiesel tax credit; and a third by Sen. Mike Johanns (Neb.) to nix a provision requiring any taxpayer with business income to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they buy more than $600 of goods or services in any year.

Democrats would then offer alternative amendments to those offered by the GOP and would agree to remove agricultural disaster aid and several other provisions Republicans oppose.

Republicans want four amendments: the three agreed to by Democrats, plus the fourth authored by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on spending caps.

The Senate has yet to back the amendment, which has some Democratic support, that would place a cap of $1.108 trillion on federal spending.

Although time is tight this week, the bill is still possible if lawmakers can narrow their amendment list and keep to strict time limits, another potential hurdle to jump.

Senate Small Business Chairwoman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) spent additional time on the floor Thursday night urging leaders and her colleagues to break the impasse and move the bill before the recess.

"Maybe, just maybe ... the shower on Wall Street can give a little bit of rain to Main Street," Landrieu said.

The House still has to complete the measure before it can go to President Obama for his signature.

Landrieu, along with Republican Sen. George LeMieux (Fla.), who joined Democrats more than a week ago to push through a $30 billion fund to help community banks lend to small businesses, had urged leaders to continue working on an agreement.

If Republicans are allowed to offer amendments to the bill — which will happen if leaders can agree on which ones — LeMieux has said he'd support the measure.

"If they can't work it out, shame on us when there's bipartisan support for this bill," LeMieux said recently.

Business organizations have argued that the $30 billion fund could spur $300 billion in lending.