Months after the House passed a similar aid package for U.S. small businesses, the Senate has followed suit thanks to a pair of Republicans who broke ranks not only by voting to end debate on the matter on Sept. 14, but for the legislation as well. The bill could be inked into law before month's end, when Captiol Hill politicians return to their states and districts for the last month of campaigning in an intriguing and increasingly heated 2010 General Election.

Just as in a previous vote to limit debate on the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297), the Senate passed the bill Thursday with 61 votes in favor. Months of partisan-fueled idling for the bill ended just two days prior when a pair of Republicans-Sens. George Voinovich (OH) and George LeMieux (FL) - joined Democrats in an effort to end debate and move toward a quick floor vote.

A conference committee including members of the House will craft a final version of the legislation, likely with significant involvement of the Obama White House, based on the two sides' existing proposals. The reconciled version almost surely would be signed by President Barack Obama in rapid fashion even though H.R. 5297 does not include a plan unveiled last week by Obama to allow small businesses to write off 100% of their new investment in plants and equipment through 2011.

The cornerstones of the bill include an array of tax cuts and the establishment of a $30 billion lending fund which would provide capital to small, viable community banks to increase lending to smaller firms. The fund is designed to be performance-based and would incentivize those lenders that extend new credit by decreasing the dividend rate banks pay as they increase lending. The legislation was also purportedly designed to be deficit-neutral and potentially reduce the tax gap. It is widely held Democrats believed they needed this legislative effort to move forward to combat talk of a lackluster economic rebound, especially for badly struggling American small businesses.

Most Republicans argued against the measure as government intrusion on free markets and another costly measure on top of previous efforts. Part of the vitriol attached to the legislation could be traced to an early move by the Democratic leadership in the Senate to place strict limits on the GOP's ability to offer amendments on the proposal as well as the jockeying on the part of the increasingly divided parties leading up to a one of the more hotly contested general election in recent memory.

Brian Shappell, NACM staff writer

 

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