Republicans block measure to assist small businesses
Filibuster follows battle over number of amendments
WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected a bill to aid small businesses with expanded loan programs and tax breaks, in a procedural blockade that underscored how fiercely determined the party’s leaders are to deny Democrats any further legislative accomplishments ahead of the November midterm elections.
The measure, championed by Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., had the backing of some of the Republican Party’s most reliable business allies, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Several Republican lawmakers also helped write it.
But Republican leaders filibustered after fighting for days with Democrats over the number of amendments they would be able to offer. A last-ditch offer by Democrats to allow three was refused by the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“The majority leader has graciously given us three amendments, and what I’m saying is three amendments is not enough; he knows that,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “We are not expecting to have an unlimited number of amendments, but three amendments will not suffice.”
The demise, at least for now, of the measure signaled that Democrats would fare no better on other legislation that they had hoped to finish before summer recess begins at the end of next week, including a scaled-back energy bill. The Senate is expected to confirm Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, but that may be its only substantive action.
With 60 votes needed to advance the legislation, the tally was 58-42, with Democrats unanimously in favor and Republicans all opposed. The majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, switched his vote to no at the last minute, a parliamentary step that would allow him to call for a re-vote.
The vote on the small-business bill followed several emotional exchanges on the floor.
“That is the tradition in the United States Senate: Majority rules, but you accommodate the rights of the minority,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine, the senior Republican on the small-business committee. “We’re faced with a procedural impasse here because we’re being denied the opportunity to offer some amendments.”
She also chastised Democrats as dillydallying on the measure, repeatedly pulling it off the floor to deal with other matters.
“We need to create jobs in America,” she said. “This bill has been on the floor for three weeks and three substitutes — 81 days.”
Landrieu harshly criticized McConnell for blocking the measure and warned that some businesses might fail.
The bill would create a $30 billion lending program within the Treasury Department, to be administered through local banks. It would also provide more than $12 billion in tax breaks and expand or enhance existing lending programs.
The three Republican amendments that Democrats seemed open to debating would eliminate a provision in the new health care law requiring businesses to file 1099 forms reporting when they buy more than $600 in goods from other businesses, extend a tax credit for biodiesel fuel and extend a credit for research and development.
Sen. Mitch McConnell
Sen. Harry Reid