After months of wrangling, the Senate passed a bill that would provide tax cuts for small businesses and open lending by creating a $30 billion government fund, as well as bolster the Small Business Administration. The bill passed 61-38, with Republicans George Voinovich, an Ohio senator who's retiring at the end of this term, and George LeMieux, a Florida senator who is not running for re-election, crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats.
Obama has put himself out for the bill, plugging it in the Rose Garden in August and again yesterday, and frequently chiding Republicans for stalling debate.
Democrats have been working with Sen. LeMieux since the summer, while Voinovich was a more recent get. When he told The Washington Post this past weekend that "we don't have time for messaging ... this country is really hurting," and that he would vote with Democrats on the bill as long as they allowed a vote on an amendment regarding tax forms, it seemed clear that the bill was headed for passage. Now it goes to the House, which is expected to pass it, and then on to Obama.
Neither LeMieux nor Voinovich are running for re-election, giving them the political ability to desert their party on this issue. Republicans fixated on amendments to the bill, pushing one that would have eliminated stacks of new paperwork for small businesses resulting from health care reform. Democrats agreed to the idea, but the parties diverged on how to pay for the measure. Ultimately, it did not make it into the bill.