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Congress sends $40 billion-plus small business bill to Obama

The Democratic-controlled Congress on Thursday sent President Barack Obama a long-delayed bill to help struggling small businesses with easier credit and other incentives to expand and hire new workers.

The Senate passed the measure last week. The 237-187 House vote Thursday that sent the bill to the president split along party lines as Democrats praised the measure for creating a $30 billion federal fund to help smaller banks issue loans to small businesses and for cutting taxes by $12 billion over the coming decade.

"It combines ... tax relief with increased access to critical financing so that our nation's small businesses can move forward on new or delayed expansion plans," said Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine."Small-business growth means job creation."

Republicans, poised for big gains in midterm elections just six weeks away, said the new loan fund is just a smaller version of the unpopular 2008 bailout of the financial system.

"What we have today before us is junior TARP," said Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

While community bankers enthusiastically support the measure, it's getting only tepid support from GOP-leaning small-business groups, which are more focused on expiring tax cuts.

The bill includes more unemployment checks for the jobless; relief from payroll taxes for companies that hire new workers; and billions of dollars in aid for states and local schools. But much of the tax relief would actually go to larger businesses for write-offs of facilities and equipment such as computers, trucks and machinery.

The measure also would allow small business owners to deduct the costs of health insurance for themselves and their families from self-employment taxes, but only for the 2010 tax year.