WASHINGTON (CN) – The Senate voted 61-38 Thursday to pass a small business bill that will cut taxes and ease lending for small businesses, ending months of delay and accomplishing one of President Obama’s top objectives for getting the economy back on track.
The bill includes $12 billion in tax breaks to small businesses and creates a $32 billion lending fund, overseen by the Treasury Department, to encourage banks to loan to small businesses.
Republican Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and George LeMieux of Florida joined majority Democrats in voting to pass the bill.
“There’s not been much I can agree on with the Democrats in Congress,” LeMieux said Wednesday in a televised interview, “but this bill that [Democratic Senator from Florida] Mary Landrieu and I worked on together is actually going to help small businesses. It doesn’t raise the deficit, doesn’t raise debt, doesn’t raise taxes — made a lot of sense to me.”
During a press conference Wednesday, Obama thanked Voinovich and LeMieux for breaking with Republicans on the bill.
“I want to thank them for their efforts, because they understand that we simply don’t have time anymore to play games,” Obama said, echoing Voinovich’s comments last week when he announced his support for the bill.
“We don’t have time for messaging,” Voinovich said. “We don’t have time anymore. This country is really hurting.”
Voinovich spoke out against his party’s attempt to block the bill by pushing for unrelated amendments that he said amounted to partisan messaging.
Obama has been pushing hard for the bill’s passage, saying it would spur hiring by small businesses.
“While I am grateful for this progress,” Obama said the day before the final vote, “it should not have taken this long to pass this bill.”
The legislation will now go to the House for approval and then to Obama’s desk for signature. The bill is expected to pass easily in the House, which passed a similar measure a few months back.