The Democratic-controlled Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a long-delayed bill to help struggling small businesses with easier credit and other incentives to expand and hire new workers.
The $40 billion-plus bill is the last vestige of the heralded jobs agenda that Obama and Democrats promoted early this year. They ended up delivering only a fraction of what they promised after emboldened Senate Republicans blocked most of the agenda with delaying tactics.
The Senate passed the measure last week. The 237-187 House vote Thursday that sent the bill to the president split along party lines as Democrats praised the measure for creating a $30 billion federal fund to help smaller banks issue loans to small businesses and for cutting taxes by $12 billion over the coming decade.
"It combines ... tax relief with increased access to critical financing so that our nation's small businesses can move forward on new or delayed expansion plans," said Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat."Small-business growth means job creation."
Republicans, poised for big gains in elections just six weeks away, said the new loan fund is just a smaller version of the unpopular 2008 bailout of the financial system.
"What we have today before us is junior TARP," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, a Republican.
While community bankers enthusiastically support the measure, it's getting only tepid support from GOP-leaning small-business groups, which are more focused on expiring tax cuts.
"There's some OK stuff in it, but the impact's going to be minimal," said Bill Rys, tax counsel for the National Federation of Independent Business.
The vote gives Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress a much-needed, but minor, victory as elections approach.
"The small business jobs bill passed today will help provide loans and cut taxes for millions of small business owners," Obama said in a statement. "After months of partisan obstruction and needless delay, I'm grateful that Democrats and a few Republicans came together to support this commonsense plan to put Americans back to work."
Earlier this year, Democrats had ambitious designs to boost "green jobs," provide new funding for roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects, pay for a summer jobs program for disadvantaged young people and renew health insurance subsidies for the jobless.
What was actually enacted was far smaller: more unemployment checks for the jobless; relief from payroll taxes for companies that hire new workers; and billions of dollars in aid for states and local schools.