Today, in Senate dysfunction: Republicans filibustered a long-embattled small-business bill — designed to create jobs, created with bipartisan input, and delayed for weeks now — to force Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the majority leader, to allow them to propose more amendments.
“81 percent of the jobs lost in America are from small business,” Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the head of the Small Business Committee, said after the failed vote. “When the other side complains and complains and just flaps and flaps all day long about it’s a jobless recovery, we put a bill on the floor to creates jobs for small business and they say no…. They can color it, paint it any way they want, that’s what it was.”
Republicans filibustered, 57 to 41, preventing Democrats from gaining 60 votes for cloture to end debate and move to a majority-rules vote on the bill. (Reid changed his vote to “nay” for procedural reasons, allowing him to call it again. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.), who caucuses with the Democrats, was not present to vote, nor was Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.). Nobody crossed the aisle.) Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the ranking Republican on the Small Business Committee and an author of the bill, chose not to vote for cloture. In a floor speech before the vote, she called Democrats’ refusal to allow more amendments a “disgrace.”
This morning, Democrats and Republicans engaged in heated negotiations on the bill. Reid offered to drop $1.5 billion in emergency aid for farmers whose crops have been ruined by natural disasters. But Republicans wanted consideration of amendments concerning top-bracket income tax rates, which if allowed to increase would hurt small businesses, Republicans said. They also wanted consideration of Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) and Jon Kyl’s (R-Ariz.) proposal setting the estate tax at 35 percent. (Democrats want to address tax issues in separate bills.)
The small business legislation as currently written eliminates capital gains taxes for investment in small businesses and creates a $30 billion fund to encourage small banks to lend to small businesses, among many other provisions. Senate Democrats might take the bill back up as soon as today.