Partisan politics reared its ugly head again last week when the U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation designed to spur job growth for small businesses.
The Small Business Jobs Act was months in the making and featured a number of elements that Democrats and Republicans alike supported.
But a Republican filibuster last week torpedoed the bill, which would have expanded federal loan programs and tax breaks for small businesses.
The bill was at least temporarily shelved on a 58-42 vote. It would take 60 votes to move the legislation forward.
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The bitter procedural floor fight had Republicans claiming Democrats blocked a number of amendments they wanted incorporated into the bill. Democrats charged Republicans with being obstructionists offering up some amendments that had nothing to do with the bill.
Shame on the Senate for failing to take advantage of a golden opportunity to help small businesses by targeting $12 billion in tax incentives and creating a $30 billion lending fund in the Treasury Department administered through local community banks.
It doesn’t take a cynic to see that partisan politics are at a feverish pitch as November’s midterm elections draw near. Well-meaning legislation — think energy bill — is falling by the wayside as the two parties jockey for position and do everything they can to keep the other party from gaining the upper hand with voters on any given issue.
Heaven forbid that the Democrats be perceived by voters as championing the rights of small business, a group historically allied with Republican interests.
This is the sort of political gamesmanship that has soured voters on politicians and created an atmosphere of distrust that borders on unhealthy.
In a recent floor speech amid all the political bickering, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) made some salient points on why this bill, born out of bipartisanship, should be passed into law.
Small businesses were among the hardest hit by the recession, accounting for about two-thirds of the job losses that plunged the country into double-digit unemployment rates. In this state, small businesses shed some 142,000 jobs since 2008, or about one for every small business registered in the state.
“So if each of those small businesses were to hire one more employee, it would more than wipe out the (small business) job loss in the state,” the senator said.
Analysts of the bill’s effect also estimate the jobs and revenue expansion allowed by the bill would reduce the federal budget deficit by $1.1 billion. It’s just a fraction of the debt, but it would be a step in the right direction.
Here’s some of the details in the bill that were crafted with bipartisan support:
• Increases the potential pool of money loaned by the Small Business Administration by $5 billion within one year of passage.
• Allows investors in small businesses to take a 100 percent exclusion from capital gains taxes on small business investments made in 2010.
• Allows self-employed taxpayers to deduct health care costs for payroll tax purposes on their 2010 tax returns.
• Improves the SBA’s trade and export finance programs to help small businesses access foreign markets.
It would be a pity if more small businesses go under while senators dilly-dally with the bill, something they’ve been doing for weeks.
Democrats and Republicans alike should stop playing games, take a deep breath and return to the task of passing legislation that helps small businesses play a greater role in the nation’s economic recovery.