What now on small business aid?

WHAT NOW ON SMALL BUSINESS AID?…. Going into yesterday, hopes were relatively high that the Senate would make progress on 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. Hopes were dashed when Republicans, throwing a bit of a tantrum over the number of amendments they were allowed to consider, voted unanimously to block the chamber from voting on the bill.

There’s no real mystery about the partisan gamesmanship on display.

Senate Republicans on Thursday rejected a bill to aid small businesses with expanded loan programs and tax breaks, in a procedural blockade that underscored how fiercely determined the party’s leaders are to deny Democrats any further legislative accomplishments ahead of November’s midterm elections.

The measure, championed by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, had the backing of some of the Republican Party’s most reliable business allies, including the United States Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business. Several Republican lawmakers also helped write it.

But Republican leaders filibustered after fighting for days with Democrats over the number of amendments they would be able to offer.

So, the bill with 59 supporters and 41 opponents is at least temporarily stuck. What now? The Senate leadership is moving forward on a separate measure to help states avoid teacher layoffs and cover Medicaid costs (EduJobs and FMAP), but there’s still talk that aid for small businesses can survive.

At issue are Republican demands that they be able to offer amendments to the small-business package that have nothing to do with small businesses — including border security and Bush tax cuts. They don’t really expect the amendments to pass, but GOP leaders hope (a) that the votes put Dems in an awkward spot; and (b) the process of considering them will take up more floor time, and make it impossible to consider other legislation this year.

As it currently stands, after yesterday’s nonsense, the earliest the Senate would approve the small-business package is September. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), who’s taken the lead on this bill, noted that for struggling businesses, that’s not nearly soon enough. Republicans, in effect, replied that the number of amendments they’d be allowed to consider was more important than whether those businesses might fail.