Senate Republicans block bill supporting small businesses

SENATE REPUBLICANS BLOCK BILL SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESSES…. It seems like the kind of bill that should pass pretty easily. As the job market continues to struggle, Democrats have proposed a package to aid small businesses, including tax breaks, new incentives, and an attempt to expand credit through a lending program that utilizes local banks.

Today on the Senate floor, it had 59 supporters and 41 opponents, which means it failed, and the entire effort is in jeopardy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) failed to break a weeks-long GOP filibuster of small-business jobs legislation and was forced to scramble to figure out his next move after Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) bitterly attacked his handling of the bill Thursday. […]

But Snowe’s attack on the Senate floor — in which she accused Reid of performing “political theater. It’s not about legislating anymore” — clearly caught Reid and other Democrats off guard and forced the Democratic leader to make a last-ditch effort to salvage the bill.

(For the record, the final vote was technically 58-42, but only because Reid had to switch his vote for procedural reasons. Every member of the Democratic caucus opposed the GOP filibuster, and every Republican voted to kill the bill.)

In a display that can best be described as insane, Senate Republicans demanded all week that the chamber act on the small-business-incentives measure, and not waste time with measures like campaign-finance reform. But this morning, when the small-business package was ready to move, Republicans balked.

To hear them tell it, GOP senators aren’t against helping small businesses — at least not explicitly — but they’re filibustering to get more time for more votes on more amendments to the bill.

In other words, Republicans have gone from complaining about the bill not coming up sooner to trying to drag out the process out.

So, the good news is the bill isn’t dead, at least not yet. The bad news is, Republican senators are acting like spoiled children, in the hopes of eating up valuable pre-recess calendar time, making it impossible for the Senate to do anything else with its limited schedule. The energy bill is in trouble anyway, but by playing games with small businesses, making any progress on energy is looking even less likely.

Olympia Snowe was especially embarrassing this morning. Her argument was that the Senate needs to act quickly to help small businesses — which is why she’s supporting the filibuster to prevent a vote on helping small businesses.

What a ridiculous mess.