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Small-business bill sent to Obama

Congress passes long-delayed $40b aid measure

By Andrew Taylor
Associated Press / September 24, 2010

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WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Congress yesterday sent President Obama a long-delayed bill to help struggling small businesses with easier credit and other incentives to expand and hire more workers.

The $40 billion-plus bill is the last vestige of the heralded jobs agenda that Obama and Democrats promoted early this year. They ended up delivering only a fraction of what they promised because emboldened Senate Republicans blocked most of the agenda with delaying tactics.

The Senate passed the measure last week. The 237-187 House vote yesterday that sent the bill to the president split along party lines as Democrats praised the measure for creating a $30 billion federal fund to help smaller banks issue loans to small businesses and for cutting taxes by $12 billion over the coming decade.

“It combines . . . tax relief with increased access to critical financing so that our nation’s small businesses can move forward on new or delayed expansion plans,’’ said Representative Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat. “Small-business growth means job creation.’’

Republicans, poised for big gains in elections just six weeks away, said the new loan fund is just a smaller version of the unpopular 2008 bailout of the financial system.

“What we have today before us is junior TARP,’’ said Representative Lincoln Diaz-Balart of Florida.

While community bankers enthusiastically support the measure, it is getting only tepid support from GOP-leaning small-business groups, which are more focused on expiring tax cuts.

The vote gives Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress a much-needed, but minor, victory as elections approach.

Earlier this year, Democrats had ambitious designs to boost green jobs, provide new funding for roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects, pay for a summer jobs program for disadvantaged young people, and renew health insurance subsidies for the jobless.

What was enacted was far smaller: more unemployment checks for the jobless; relief from payroll taxes for companies that hire more workers; and billions of dollars in aid for states and local schools.