By Alexander Bolton - 07/29/10 04:45 PM EDT
Senate Republicans blocked progress on small-business legislation
Thursday morning, handing Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) his
second legislative defeat of the week.
A vote to cut off debate on a substitute amendment offered by Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) failed by a vote of 58 to 42.
“I expect we will to try to move to the energy bill,” said a Democratic aide.
Republicans voted unanimously on Tuesday to prevent consideration of the Disclose Act, another Democratic priority. The legislation would have required corporations and unions to disclose their role in funding political campaigns. It also would have barred domestic subsidiaries of foreign corporations from spending to influence campaigns.
The small-business legislation, which would provide a variety of aid to a sector of the economy hit hard by the 2008 financial collapse, was initially considered bipartisan legislation.
Reid pulled $1.5 billion in disaster assistance for farmers from the bill in a last-minute attempt to save it. A GOP senator suggested to Reid that removing the provision sponsored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) could have ended the filibuster.
The agriculture funds are designed to keep farms operating while the Department of Agriculture implements disaster funding included in the 2008 Farm Bill.
“I think Republicans just don’t like farmers,” Lincoln said.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) accused Democrats of derailing the bill by playing political games.
“It takes a lot of effort to make a partisan issue out of a bill that should have broad bipartisan support. I mean, you have to go out of your way to make a small business bill controversial,” McConnell said. “But they’ve pulled it off.”
McConnell has charged that Democrats refused to allow Republicans to offer and vote on amendments to the bill, poisoning the process.
Republicans believe Democrats want to see the bill fail so they can use it as ammunition on the campaign trail.
“So, from the beginning, this bill clearly wasn’t a priority to them,” McConnell said. “Until they realized that they didn’t have anything to talk about when they go home in August.”
Reid countered McConnell’s argument in a Thursday morning floor speech before the vote.
“This is about as fair as it could be,” he said. “My friends on the other side of the aisle indicated they wanted to offer some amendments. We say, ‘Go ahead and do that.’ They can’t take yes for an answer.”
Reid noted an amendment to set up the small-business lending fund was sponsored by Republican Sen. George LeMieux (Fla.).
Reid said he was willing to agree to votes on other Republican amendments as long as Democrats had a chance to vote on their own alternatives.
He pleaded with Republicans to end their filibuster.
“This is a bill that will help businesses all over America,” Reid said.
The bill includes a list of provisions to help small businesses.
It would raise the cap on Small Business Administration loan limits to increase lending by $5 billion within a year; establish a $30 billion small-business lending fund for community banks; allow small businesses to carry back business tax credits to offset tax burdens from the previous five years; and provide $900 million in grants to states to support small business lending programs.