Repub­li­cans block mea­sure to as­sist small busi­nesses

Fil­i­buster fol­lows bat­tle over num­ber of amend­ments

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By David M. Her­szen­horn

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

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