* House sends small business lending bill to Senate
* Timing of Senate action unclear
* Democrats struggling to round up votes on tax bill
By Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, June 17 The U.S. House of
Representatives on Thursday approved a small business lending
program sought by President Barack Obama to boost economic
growth and encourage job creation.
The House voted 241-182, mostly along party lines, for a
bill which would authorize a $30 billion fund the Treasury
Department would use to provide capital to small community
banks, allowing increased lending to small businesses.
"America's small business owners are the backbone of our
economy," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "With this
legislation, we are helping to ensure they have what they need
to be the engine of our recovery."
Republican opponents called the program another bailout for
financial institutions similar to the $700 billion Wall Street
rescue in 2008. They argue that tax increases coupled with huge
deficits and greater regulation are discouraging job growth.
"Washington can best help small businesses by creating a
job-friendly environment and providing clarity about the
future," Republican Representative Tom Price said in a
statement. "Bailouts are not the answer."
The Independent Community Bankers of America backed the
bill, calling it a "bold new program that will go a long way
toward aiding our nation's economic recovery." The group said
the $30 billion fund could be leveraged into as much as $300
billion in new credit to small businesses.
The legislation is being combined with another bill earlier
passed by the House that would provide $3.5 billion in small
business tax breaks before it is sent over to the Senate for a
It is unclear when the Senate will take up the small
business lending bill. Senate Democratic leaders were
struggling on Thursday to round up the 60 votes needed to pass
another economic bill backed by Obama which would extend
popular business tax breaks and unemployment insurance benefits
for the long-term unemployed.
The bill would also extend extra Medicaid aid to
cash-strapped states and prevent a 21 percent pay cut for
doctors treating Medicare patients. The bill would also raise
taxes on investment fund managers, who currently pay a low 15
percent capital gains tax rate on much of their earnings, to
help offset the cost its cost.
Some senators are balking at adding to already bloated
budget deficits even though the bill has been trimmed down to
try to meet those concerns. The Congressional Budget Office
said the revised bill would add about $55 billion to the
deficit over 10 years, compared to about $80 billion for an
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said leaders
were working to muster the 60 votes needed in the 100-member
chamber to get the bill passed. "We'll get 60 votes. I can't
say exactly when, but we will get 60 votes," Baucus said.
(Reporting by Donna Smith; editing by Todd Eastham)