Commentary: Senate should vote on small business funds bill now

The Senate, to its credit, managed to overcome the bitter partisanship that divides the chamber on two important votes Thursday.

First, senators voted 61-39 to approve legislation that saves the jobs of 300,000 public workers -- including teachers, firemen and police -- thanks to Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine voting with Democrats to break a GOP filibuster. Later, five Republicans joined all but one Democrat and the Senate's two independents to confirm Elena Kagan as a new justice on the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for a pending bill that would create a desperately needed $30 billion government fund to help community banks -- those with less than $10 billion in assets -- increase lending to small businesses. Partisan discord has made it nearly certain that the Senate will adjourn for the customary August recess this weekend without giving this bill the straight up-or-down vote that it deserves.

That's too bad. It has the support of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business -- for good reason.

The fund would leverage $300 billion in private-sector lending by creating a $30 billion public investment to encourage lending by community banks to small businesses, who have in many instances been cut off from credit for nearly two years due to the near collapse of the economy. Nothing would do more in the short run to revive this essential sector of the economy than passage of this measure. It is particularly necessary to save or create jobs in Florida and other states where the unemployment rate exceeds the national average.

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