Voinovich gives small-business bill a boost

VOINOVICH GIVES SMALL-BUSINESS BILL A BOOST…. As of late-July, the prospects for the small-business bill pending in the Senate looked pretty good. The aid package included tax breaks, new incentives, and an attempt to expand credit through a lending program that utilizes local banks. It had 59 supporters, and the Democratic majority only needed one GOP vote to overcome yet another Republican filibuster.

They didn’t get that vote. Shortly before the Senate broke for its recess, Republicans threw a bit of a tantrum over the number of amendments they were allowed to consider, and unanimously blocked the chamber from voting on the bill. As a consequence, many small businesses simply put expansion plans on hold, waiting for the GOP to stop playing games.

When the Senate returns from its recess, this small-business bill is set to be the first order of business. Yesterday, the 60th vote appeared to come into place.

Retiring Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) said he plans to help push a package of small-business incentives through the Senate next week, a move that would give President Obama and congressional Democrats a key victory on the economy in the final weeks before the November midterm elections.

In an interview, Voinovich said he could no longer support Republican efforts to delay the measure in hopes of winning the right to offer additional amendments. Most of the proposed GOP amendments “didn’t have anything to do with the bill” anyway, Voinovich said, and amounted merely to partisan “messaging.”

“We don’t have time for messaging,” Voinovich said. “We don’t have time anymore. This country is really hurting.”

I’m delighted Voinovich is prepared to break ranks on this. He’s retiring anyway — meaning Voinovich need not worry about partisan reprisals from his party — and he apparently heard from constituents during the break who convinced him to do the right thing.

But pay careful attention to his explanation. To hear Voinovich tell it, his Republican colleagues were, in fact, playing petty games, as part of a larger political “messaging” effort. Now, the Ohio senator believes, “we don’t have time anymore.”

That’s true, we didn’t have time in July, either.

Voinovich is effectively admitting that his Republican Party delayed progress on a worthwhile economic bill — on purpose — as part of an election-season scheme. That’s quite a concession, and if our political system made more sense, would be considered pretty scandalous.

As for what’s next, the Senate leadership now expects passage by the end of next week. It will need House approval before heading to the White House.