Jonathan Cohn

Who's Making Business Nervous Now?

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Remember when Republicans were complaining about "uncertainty"? As the argument went, businesses weren't expanding and hiring new workers because they feared struggling with new regulations and taxes. Businesses, the Republicans said, needed certainty and financial relief.

Apparently Republican thinking has evolved, as Steve Benen at Washington Monthly and Pat Garofalo at Wonk Room explain today. In late July, the Democrats were poised to pass a small-business assistance bill, full of tax breaks and other incentives designed to reward small businesses that hire new workers. But, as always, the Democrats were one vote short in the Senate. And not one Republican agreed to sign on.

So where does that leave small business? Via USA Today:

Small businesses have put hiring, supply buying and real estate expansion on hold as they wait out the vote on a small-business-aid bill that stalled in the Senate earlier this summer.

The much-debated legislation offers tax breaks and waived loan fees. But it also comes with more divisive components, such as a $30 billion fund that would help community banks give loans to small businesses. Opponents say the fund would be a mini version of the often-criticized TARP large-bank bailout program.

Many small businesses had hoped the legislation would pass the Senate by the end of July. With two weeks left until Congress reconvenes, those firms are in a holding pattern.

"I'm still waiting for Congress to sign off on the bill," says Amarjit Kaur, who runs a convenience store and gas station in Wood Village, Ore. She leases her property but has a chance to buy it. With the waived-fee provision, Kaur says she could save about $35,000 on her pending loan.

Kaur's is among about 1,000 other small businesses that "have their bank papers all done and will be funded in the days moments after the bill passes," says U.S. Small Business Administration Administrator Karen Mills.

Benen notes that the bill is deficit neutral, so this isn't a spending issue. Garofalo sums is up this way:

The credit crunch affecting small businesses is very real and this bill could help alleviate it, getting those businesses loans to expand and hire. But Republicans have been tying it up in procedural knots for months, while simultaneously complaining that the Obama administration is not doing enough to aid small businesses. That’s a convenient political game to play, but it leaves actual small businesses out to dry.

Update: I originally wrote, incorrectly, that the Wonk Room item came from Igor Volsky. My apologies. Clearly I need to start reading more carefully or start getting even more caffeine.

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