SENATE OVERCOMES GOP SCHEME, APPROVES SMALL BUSINESS BILL…. When the Senate manages to pass good bills, it always comes as such a relief.

The Senate on Thursday approved a multi-billion dollar package of tax breaks and government-backed loans for small businesses, as Democrats surmounted months of opposition by Republican leaders. Backers say the bill could spur business growth and new hiring.

“Small businesses are the major job creators in our economy, and this legislation will ensure that our small businesses have the tax incentives and credit they need to expand and hire,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California.

After breaking a Republican filibuster on Tuesday, final passage was 61 to 38. Every member of the Senate Democratic caucus voted for it, and every member of the Senate Republican caucus opposed it, except Ohio’s George Voinovich and Florida’s George LeMieux.

It now heads to the House, which is expected to act fairly quickly in order to send the bill onto President Obama, who’s been demanding the bill for months.

The basis for near-unanimous opposition to the legislation was … well, I’m still not sure what Republicans were thinking. We’re talking about a bill with tax incentives for small businesses and an attempt to expand credit through a lending program that utilizes local banks. The bill, which is fully paid for, was finished and ready to go in July, arguably even June.

Indeed, there were all kinds of small businesses that “put hiring, supply buying and real estate expansion on hold,” just waiting for the Senate to act.

But Republicans didn’t want the Senate to act. For reasons that remain a mystery, the GOP fought to delay passage, then fought it again with a filibuster, then fought it again even when final passage was assured. For all their talk about small businesses needing relief, Republicans — including the alleged “moderates” (Snowe, Collins, and Brown) — spent most of the summer trying to kill a bill to help small businesses.

Voinovich, in refreshing candor, acknowledged last week that 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” for the partisan gamesmanship.

In other words, according to a senior GOP senator, his Republican Party delayed progress on a worthwhile economic bill — on purpose — as part of an election-season scheme. Businesses that could have aided economic expansion months ago were delayed because the GOP had a “messaging” strategy in mind.

If our political system made more sense, this would be a huge national scandal that would force Republicans onto the defensive seven weeks before the midterms.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

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.