Senate could vote on a $12 billion small-business bill as early as this week

With the backing of at least one Republican, the Senate is expected to pass a small-business bill later this week that would provide $12 billion in tax breaks and expand credit access. 

Lawmakers will resume consideration of the measure Tuesday morning with a vote on an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) that would eliminate a requirement for businesses to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they buy more than $600 of goods or services in a year.

A cloture vote is scheduled for 11 a.m. Tuesday. If the Senate fails to vote to end debate on the Johanns provision, lawmakers would move to a similar amendment by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) that would change the threshold to $5,000. 

The measure, whose budget impact is offset by spending cuts, has firm support from most Democrats and at least one Republican, Sen. George Voinovich (Ohio), who said last week he is prepared to move forward on the measure. 

The measure could also get support from Florida Republican Sen. George LeMieux, who helped author the $30 billion lending fund provision in the measure and touted its benefits during the summer recess. 

The Senate had previously agreed to end debate on an amendment by LeMieux on the lending fund to help community banks can lend to small businesses. 

LeMieux touted the benefits of the fund during the summer recess, saying his state needs the bill because of its high number of small businesses. 

"The small business lending bill will help free up capital to provide credit to small-business owners trying to grow their companies and create more job opportunities,” LeMieux said last week during a speech in Orlando.

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

A report released today by the Joint Economic Committee shows that lending and the amount of loans to small businesses has declined this year, while hiring remains flat as the smallest firms continue to reduce hiring.

“Small businesses have been struggling to get the loans they need to expand and create jobs, as this report shows," said panel Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).

“I applaud Sen. George Voinovich for stepping forward and agreeing to support the bill.  It is time for Congress to help small businesses get the lending they so desperately need to grow.”

Senate Republicans have said they wouldn't support the measure unless some of their proposed amendments were considered. 

Before leaving for the recess, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) pared back the bill and set up cloture votes on the Johanns amendment and the Democratic alternative. 

The Democratic alternative is paid for by repealing tax cuts for the five largest oil companies, specifically Section 199 of the tax code, which currently allows these corporations to deduct six percent of their income from oil-and-gas production from their tax liability, effective Dec. 31, 2010. This repeal would only apply to the five largest corporations with more than $1 billion of before-tax income. 

The five major integrated oil companies, which include BP, had a combined profit of $25 billion in the first quarter of 2010. 

That provision has come under fire by some business groups that say the increase in taxes will cause about 150,000 job losses. 

Johanns pays for his amendment by lowering the affordability exemption for the new individual mandate from 8 percent to 5 percent, making fewer people subject to the individual health insurance mandate. The amendment also proposes that a $15 billion fund for wellness programs not be funded until 2018.  

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner pushed again today for passage of the measure without mentioning either of the amendments. 

“If we want to keep America moving forward and if we want to get more men and women back to work — we must keep investing in our small businesses,” Geithner said in a speech at a conference hosted by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute.

“Once this bill becomes law, it will provide substantial financial benefits for small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Geithner said.

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