Senate votes to move forward on small-business bill

In recent weeks, President Obama had implored Republicans to end the stalemate and let the legislation move forward, in an effort to spur job creation by providing credit-starved small businesses with borrowing opportunities. 

LeMieux has supported the bill and touted its benefits during the summer recess. He helped author the lending fund language that opens up lending to small business through mostly community banks. 

He had hesitated to vote to move the legislation forward in the past because he wanted consideration of more Republican amendments.

Voinovich came out in support of the bill last week, saying the bill was desperately needed to help small businesses that have struggled to get loans to hire new employees and expand. 

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

"This bill will allow community banks to start lending to small businesses," Reid said. 

A report released Monday 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.

Before leaving for the recess, Reid pared back the bill and set up cloture votes on two amendments, one by each party, that would make changes to a requirement in the healthcare law for businesses to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they buy more than $600 of goods or services in any year.

Earlier today, the Senate voted, 46-52, against moving forward on a Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) amendment that would repeal the 1099 provision, which goes into effect in 2013, and would have paid for it 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 proposed a $15 billion fund for wellness programs not to be funded until 2018. 

The Senate voted on a similar amendment by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) that also failed to gain the 60 votes needed to move forward, failing 56-42. Nelson's provision would have changed the threshold from $600 to $5,000. 

The Democratic alternative was 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 6 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. 

Nelson's amendment has come under fire by some business groups that say the increase in taxes will cause about 150,000 job losses. 

Lawmakers will most likely look separately at the 1099 issue and possibly repeal it or change its scope. The debate on the 1099 has been less about whether to repeal or change the requirement, which opponents say could place a heavy paperwork burden on upwards of 30 million small businesses, and more about how to cover the loss of about $17 billion in revenue to pay for the healthcare law. 

House and Senate Democrats have expressed and even voted in support of the repeal, but lawmakers can't agree on how to pay for it. 

Democrats' concerns over the Johanns amendment centered around funding for healthcare programs they say are a vital part of the new healthcare law. 

"I am hearing from Nebraskans that they don’t want to cut wellness programs that help reduce the medical costs for both employers and employees," Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said Monday about the Johanns amendment.