WASHINGTON — After nearly a month of delays, the Senate was expected to pass a bill late Wednesday that would create a $30 billion small-business lending fund.
The vote came after President Obama stepped up his push to pass the legislation, arguing it was needed to improve the economy and blaming Republicans for the hold up.
It is "no secret that we've confronted" partisan politics and a "fair amount of obstruction" from Republicans, Obama said.
The bill has been a roller-coaster ride, and Democrats and Republicans took turns Wednesday blaming each other for its ups and downs.
Small Business Committee Chairman Mary Landrieu warned against plans to add amendments to the bill.
"There is such a thing as amending a bill to death," she said on the Senate floor. "I hope you will trust me when I say that at some point the debate has to come to an end and we've got to vote on a bill."
But Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said it was Democrats who were delaying the bill by focusing on other issues, including regulatory reform.
"If the president wants to criticize somebody about slowing this bill down, he's simply got the wrong party," McConnell said. "He needs to direct his criticism at Democrats not Republicans. The fact is Democrats had other priorities."
The Senate passed cloture on the bill on June 29 by a vote of 66 to 33, but since then it has hit objections from Republicans that it was too similar to the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
The $30 billion fund would provide capital to community banks and would give them incentives to make loans. A bank's dividend on the capital could decrease to as little as 1% as it increases such lending.
"There is a lot of carrot in this and a structure that makes it illogical for a bank to seek these funds and sit on these funds," said Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.
The capital would be free of Tarp-like restrictions such as warrants and executive compensation. The measure also includes small-business tax incentives and extensions of Small Business Administration guarantees.
The bill still needs to be reconciled with a House version that passed June 17 by a vote of 241 to 182.
The House version does not include the tax incentives or SBA guarantees, but it does include a commercial real estate loss amortization strongly opposed by banking regulators.
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