Senate moves forward on small business bill

By:  Kyung M. Song , seattle times
Source: The Seattle Times

WASHINGTON -- After being stuck in the U.S. Senate for months, the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 may be on its way to passage this week.

The Senate on Tuesday voted 61-37 to cut off debate on proposed changes to the bill, paving the way for a final vote on legislation that has been embroiled in partisan wrangling over repealing a portion of the new health-care law.

Both Sen. Patty Murray and Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington voted to forge ahead with the small business measure. Among other things, the bill contains $12 billion in tax cuts, heftier government loan guarantees and a $30 billion fund supporters say would ease credit and spur lending to small businesses. The House has already passed a similar bill.

Murray's Republican challenger Dino Rossi has slammed the bill as "a $30 billion taxpayer-funded bank slush fund."

But the main partisan split centered on a pair of amendments related to new bookkeeping requirements for small businesses triggered by the federal health-care overhaul. The new tax provision was designed to catch businesses that were shortchanging the IRS, but was widely criticized as creating burdensome paperwork.

The provision requires businesses to keep track of any purchases of more than $600 a year to a single vendor. The tightened reporting rules were expected to generate $17 billion over the next decade, money that was to help pay for expanded health coverage under the new health-care law.

Republicans, including Rossi, called for outright repeal of the reporting requirement, as called for in an amendment by Sen. Mike Johanns of Nebraska, and to make up the lost revenue elsewhere. Democratic Sen. Ben Bill Nelson of Nebraska Florida offered an alternate amendment that would have waived the rules for the smallest businesses and raised the reporting threshold to $5,000 for larger companies.

Both amendments failed. Murray and Cantwell voted against the Johanns amendment but voted for the Nelson amendment. Cantwell, who sits on both the Senate Small Business and Finance committees, has been one of the most active proponents for the measure.

Murray campaign spokeswoman Julie Edwards said that lack of credit was one of the chief complaints among small businesses and noted that the Congressional Budget Office concluded the lending program would more than pay for itself.