JOBLESS AID PASSES, BUT WILL SENATE GOP KILL HELP FOR SMALL BUSINESSES?…. It was a very busy afternoon in the U.S. Senate yesterday, with a flurry of important votes. Members considered a measure to block the Justice Department from pursuing legal action against Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, but rejected it. Likewise, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) pushed a measure to permanently end the estate tax, which also failed.

Perhaps most importantly, the Senate was finally able to pass an extension of unemployment benefits, with a 59 to 39 vote. The House is expected to approve the same measure today, and President Obama will sign it into law as quickly as the bill can reach his desk.

So, what’s next? A measure to help small businesses — which Republicans are also trying to kill.

Perhaps the last best hope of Democrats to pass legislation aimed at creating jobs before the November elections seemed to be crumbling in the Senate on Wednesday as Republicans signaled that they would block a bill to expand government lending programs and grant an array of tax breaks to small businesses. […]

[W]ith some Democrats viewing the small-business bill as critical to their political prospects in November, Senate Republicans were not about to let it through easily, and have insisted on a chance to offer amendments.

Yep, Republicans are fighting against a measure to help small businesses because it’s more important to undermine Democrats than it is to help the economy.

Indeed, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who isn’t exactly a liberal firebrand, noted what appears to be plainly true — that the GOP leadership wants to reject a measure to help the economy for purely political reasons. “I think Senator McConnell knows and believes this bill could actually create millions of jobs and doesn’t want to give the president and Democrats credit for doing what we do, which is standing up for the middle class,” Landrieu said.

The main point of contention in the bill is a “$30 billion lending program that would make credit available to small businesses through local banks.” It has broad Democratic support, and has been endorsed by the Independent Community Bankers of America and 29 state community banking associations.

But Republicans said it’s a deal-breaker — not because the lending program wouldn’t work, but because it reminds them of TARP. Even Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), who’s supposed to be one of the more reasonable ones, said she’d block a vote against relief for small businesses if it includes the lending program.

Watching the Senate can be exceedingly unpleasant.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.