Small Biz Bill Founders in Senate

By Stephen Ohlemacher, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill to increase small business lending is in jeopardy in the Senate as lawmakers struggle to reach agreement on a series of Republican amendments.

Democratic leaders have scheduled a key test vote Thursday on the legislation. But the bill won't advance unless Democrats can attract Republican votes.

The bill would create a $30 billion government fund to help community banks increase lending to small businesses, combining it with about $12 billion in tax breaks aimed at small businesses.

Democrats say banks should be able to use the lending fund to leverage up to $300 billion in loans to small businesses, helping to loosen tight credit markets.

While the fund would be available only to banks with less than $10 billion in assets, some Republicans likened it to the unpopular bailout of the financial industry.

Democratic and Republican leaders tried to negotiate a handful of amendments Wednesday with the goal of scheduling a vote on the bill. Both party leaders, however, said they reached an impasse.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Democrats were blocking GOP amendments to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Republican demands kept changing.

"We all know this is an effort to stall and not do this bill," Reid said. "This is the proverbial stall that we've had all year."

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