Senate moves on small businesses, war funding

SENATE MOVES ON SMALL BUSINESSES, WAR FUNDING…. It was a busy night in the Senate, and it’s worth taking a moment to review what transpired.

First, senators finally secured 60 votes for a key measure in the small-business incentives bill.

The Senate voted on Thursday to include a proposed $30 billion lending program in a package of aid for small businesses, as two Republicans joined with Democrats to support the amendment. […]

Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana and chairwoman of the small business committed, waged a fierce fight in support of the $30 billion lending program, which would be administered by the Treasury Department through local community banks.

“This is something that we want to do to help Main Street, to help small business,” Ms. Landrieu said in one of a series of floor speeches. “This isn’t about Wall Street. It’s not about bailouts. It’s not about troubled assets. It’s not TARP. It’s a small business lending fund, a strategic partnership with community banks.”

The vote on the measure was 60 to 39, with two Republicans — Sens. George LeMieux of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio — joining Democrats in support.

The Senate still has to break the Republican filibuster of the entire legislation, and the GOP still hopes to undermine the effort through pointless amendments, but the overall odds have improved considerably over the last 24 hours. The bill includes $12 billion in tax breaks for small businesses and an expansion of existing government lending programs, in addition to the community banks provision.

Soon after that vote, the Senate took up a war funding measure passed by the House. The package included the must-pass spending for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the House included $23 billion in additional domestic funding — including $10 billion in aid to states, intended to save thousands of teachers’ jobs. (The White House strongly disapproved, because the House paid for the funding by cutting the budget for education reforms.)

To keep the House version alive, the Senate needed to find 60 votes. It got 46. In the process, the Senate told the House it has to pass the stripped-down $59 billion package, lacking all of the additional domestic funding.

It’s unclear how the House will respond to the take-it-or-leave-it message, but if the chamber balks at the Senate version, the Pentagon is going to be put in an awfully tricky position.

As for the funding to save thousands of teachers’ jobs, Senate Dems still intend to get this done through a separate effort, but it’s not clear how or when, or whether it’ll be paid for.