WASHINGTON — In a win for President Barack Obama, Senate Democrats on Tuesday won a crucial vote to clear the way for a bill to create a $30 billion government fund to help open up lending for credit-starved small businesses.
Democrats cracked a GOP filibuster of the bill with the help of two Republicans: Sens. George Voinovich of Ohio and George LeMieux of Florida.
The 61-37 tally sets the stage for a final vote later this week to return the measure to the House, which is likely to approve it for Obama’s signature.
The bill is probably the last piece of Democrats’ ambitious jobs agenda that would become law before midterm elections, which will determine whether Democrats keep their majorities in the House and Senate. Democrats started the year with ambitious plans for a series of bills meant to boost the economy and job creation but have relatively little to show for it. The U.S. unemployment rate ticked up to 9.6 percent last month.
Obama welcomed the vote.
"This is a bill that would cut taxes and help provide loans to millions of small-business owners who create most of the new jobs in this country," Obama said in a statement. "Small businesses across the country have been waiting for Washington to act on this bill for far too long."
Democrats say the measure is needed to help small businesses cope with a credit crunch that worsened dramatically after the financial crisis two years ago.
"Small businesses are holding off on hiring while they wait for us to act," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.