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WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Retiring U.S. Senator George Voinovich will break ranks with fellow Senate Republicans and back President Barack Obama on a $30 billion small business lending proposal, an aide said on Friday.
The move gives Obama and his fellow Democrats the crucial 60th vote in the 100-member Senate to overcome a Republican filibuster and secure a significant legislative victory on the economy ahead of congressional elections in November.
Voinovich, who decided not to run for re-election in Ohio, said he would support the small business package in an interview published in Friday's Washington Post. Voinovich spokeswoman Jennifer Scoggins confirmed that he will back the legislation.
Ohio, along with other Midwestern industrial states, has been hit hard by the economic downturn. The unemployment rate stands at 10.3 percent in July, higher than the 9.6 percent national rate.
Voinovich told the Washington Post that time was running out, the "country is really hurting," and he could no longer support Republican efforts to delay the measure to be able to offer more amendments.
With Voinovich's support, the Senate could clear the package by the end of next week and send it to the House of Representatives for final approval.
Voinovich said to secure his vote, the Senate needed to consider an amendment that would kill a newly enacted measure that requires businesses to file IRS tax forms on every purchase above $600. Small business groups said the requirement, which was enacted as part of the healthcare overhaul, would impose costly compliance burdens businesses.
The legislation includes about $12 billion in tax incentives for small businesses and also establishes a $30 billion fund the government would invest in independent community banks to encourage lending to small businesses.
The Independent Community Bankers of America backs the legislation, which has been a top priority for the Obama administration.
Republican opponents have called the proposal a junior version of the controversial government bailout of Wall Street.
But Obama says it will help small firms obtain the financing they need to grow and hire new workers. In recent days he stepped up efforts to prod Congress to act, urging Senate Republicans to end their "blockade" of the bill. (Reporting by Donna Smith; Editing by Neil Stempleman)