WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate on Thursday defeated a Republican effort that would have prevented the Obama administration from using bank bailout funds to help fix roads or boost small businesses.
The measure by Republican Senator John Thune sought to end the controversial $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, created under the Bush administration to throw a lifeline to ailing Wall Street banks during the financial meltdown.
Thune's amendment drew 53 votes, short of the 60 needed for passage in the Democrat-controlled Senate. Thirteen Democrats supported the measure.
Many banks have paid back the bailout funds as Wall Street has recovered from the crisis.
Democrats hope to capitalize on widespread animosity toward Wall Street by using the remaining money for job creation.
The House of Representatives last month voted to use $75 billion of leftover TARP funds for road construction and other job-creating projects.
The Obama administration also wants to use the money to boost credit to small businesses, which have had trouble getting loans that would allow them to expand and hire new workers.
Thune and other Republican supporters said the money should be returned to the Treasury Department to avoid adding to the national debt, which reached a record $1.4 trillion last fiscal year.
"It's a very straightforward way that we can signal to the American people that we're serious about fiscal responsibility," Thune said. "We have gotten very far afield from what the purpose of the TARP program was in the first place."
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by John O'Callaghan