Senate Likely to Address Jobs Bill, Lending Fund
July 28, 2010

It appears that a deal has been struck that would allow the Senate to vote on the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) and the Small Business Lending Fund amendment introduced by Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.) this week.

Last week, the Small Business Lending Fund provisions were removed from the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) package. An effort immediately was made to reattach the Fund as an amendment. This push was led by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and a 2010 recipient of an NSBA Small Business Star award.

Landrieu, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and NSBA President Todd McCracken held a press conference July 21 to urge the inclusion of the Fund in the overall bill. (Please click here for more details on that press conference.)

Landrieu later spent 12 hours on the Senate floor, arguing forcefully for the Fund. A Capitol Hill newspaper described the scene this way: “In the normally staid Senate, Landrieu’s performance was striking, as she positioned herself in front of the chamber, and almost like Lucy in ‘Peanuts,’ took on all comers.”

Critics of the Fund tried to discredit it by claiming it resembled the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), dubbing it TARP 2.0 or TARP Jr. Of course, TARP basically was forced onto the nation’s largest banking institutions and the Small Business Lending Fund is a voluntary program—strongly supported by the Independent Community Bankers of Americafor small banks that pass a strength test. It is not designed to shore up failing banks. It is designed to expand small-business lending, a feat TARP failed to accomplish.

Some opponents of the bill went so far as to claim that the banks in their states were not interested in the program, despite public letters of support from community bank associations in their state. Landrieu was quick to point this discrepancy out.

Thankfully, two Republicans senators broke ranks to invoke cloture on the amendment, a process that requires 60 votes. Sens.George LeMieux (R-Fla.) and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) voted with a united Democratic caucus in support of the amendment. LeMieux went so far as to co-sponsor the amendment. Having invoked cloture,  the Fund can be passed via a simple majority.

Since the Small Business Jobs Act is being offered as a substitute amendment, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) still needs some Republican support for the Senate to invoke cloture on the overall bill. Many Republican senators threatened to vote against the bill, unless a deal was struck that allowed them to offer amendments.

It appears that this deal has been reached. Republicans will be able offer three amendments to the overall bill—although, at this time, it is unclear what three amendments will be offered.

With this deal in place, the Senate could vote on the overall legislation and the Landrieu-LeMieux Small Business Lending Fund amendment on Wednesday.

If the Senate approves the measure on Wednesday, the House could adopt the Senate version of the legislation on Thursday, before they adjourn for the August recess. They also could refuse the Senate version and insist on a conference in September. This delay would be unacceptable.

According to NSBA's 2010 Mid-Year Economic Report, since 1993, when NSBA began asking these questions, there has been a direct correlation between access to capital and job growth—when capital flows more freely, small businesses add new jobs.

NSBA urges the Senate to approve immediately the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) and the Landrieu-LeMieux Small Business Lending Fund amendment.

NSBA further urges the House to adopt the Senate version of the bill.

While not a panacea to the ailing economy, the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) should afford some relief to the small-business owners suffering through the credit crunch and provides $12 billion in critical tax cuts.