At first glance, a new Senate small-business lending bill looks like straight-forward attempt to help small firms where they need it the most. It would earmark new funds for working capital and loans to buy plant and equipment, with a special emphasis on micro-credit.
But in reality, the bill is a heat-seeking missile aimed directly at the Bush Administration.
The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship passed the measure unanimously last week. Among other things, it would set up a loan program for businesses that don’t qualify for the Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) or 504 loan programs. It would also create an office in the SBA devoted to minority businesses.
The only problem is, the Bush administration blocked the very same provisions from being enacted last year when they were included in the SBA budget re-authorization bill. In fact, when Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., issued a press release announcing passage of the bill, he took pains to urge the administration “not to obstruct passage of the bill.”
Don’t hold your breath. The administration is unlikely to take Kerry’s advice. Whatever happens, however, this bill is a win-win for Democrats. If the administration lets the bill go through, it’s a major victory for the Democratic Congress. If the administration, blocks the bill, it’s still a major victory — albeit a public relations one — for Kerry and company.
As for small business owners who could really use the help, in this game of political football, they are the ones left standing on the sidelines.