Republicans continue Senate filibuster of small-business bill, stymie Democrats

By Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 30, 2010

In a fresh blow to President Obama's jobs agenda, the Senate on Thursday shelved a plan to create a $30 billion loan fund for cash-strapped small businesses, delaying final passage of a top administration priority until September at the earliest.

Though Senate leaders in both parties were still working toward a compromise late Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said the Senate would not return to the bill until next week. Even if the Senate approved it, the bill would have to go back to the House, which is set to begin its August break on Friday.

The bill, which also includes $12 billion in business tax breaks and additional aid for state lending programs, has won the support of more than 100 business groups, including such traditional GOP allies as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that many Republicans also support many of the measure's provisions, which could aid a key political constituency, spur hiring and help reduce a 9.5 percent unemployment rate as lawmakers head into the November elections.

Nonetheless, the Senate failed again to advance the bill, as a united Republican caucus voted Thursday to continue to its filibuster after Reid and McConnell reached an impasse over the number of amendments that the GOP could offer. Democrats agreed to three; Republicans demanded four. Reid accused McConnell of moving the goal posts.

A furious Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), the senior Republican on the Senate committee on small business, said Democrats had played their own games with procedure while accusing Republicans of obstructionism.

"It's all political theater. You know, it's scoring political points. It's all for the next election that's coming very shortly," Snowe said on the Senate floor. "This bill was on the floor more than three weeks ago. And how many amendments have we been able to offer . . .? Zero."

Late Thursday, Reid suggested taking "a little time over the next couple of days to cool down," and he brought up a different piece of Obama's economic agenda: a plan to provide more than $26 billion in health and education aid to state governments. The cost of the measure would be covered by spending reductions, as well as higher taxes on multinational corporations.

Republican aides said some Democrats had been clamoring to add the cash to the small-business bill. If the state aid passes separately, aides in both parties said that could clear a path for the small-business initiative to advance.

"This ain't over," a senior Republican aide said.

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