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President Barack Obama signed into law a $42 billion bill to aid small businesses Monday, saying it would create jobs by providing tax credits and helping banks increase loans.
"It's going to cut taxes. It's going to make more loans available for small businesses. It's a great victory for America's entrepreneurs," Obama said to applause at the White House signing ceremony.
While the bill's major provisions had backing from both parties, it took months of legislative wrangling to work it out.
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The Senate approved it on a 61-38 vote last week, with two Republicans breaking a GOP filibuster to join the 59 Democrats in supporting the measure. The House then voted 237-187 on mostly partisan lines to send the bill to Obama's desk.
Obama noted the political battle in his remarks Monday, saying the relief provided by the measure was "needlessly delayed" by Republican senators until last week.
"At this difficult time in our country, it's essential that we keep up the fight for every job, for every new business, for every opportunity to strengthen this economy," Obama said.
Republicans eager to deny Democrats any advantage ahead of the November congressional elections have criticized the measure.
"Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to help end the uncertainty that is crippling job creation and hurting small businesses," House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said last week. "Instead it puts taxpayers on the hook for even more bailouts."
After the signing ceremony, Democratic governors and House members lauded Obama for getting the measure passed.
"I assure you we would not have this bill without this president," said Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, adding that the measure would help small businesses expand and help entrepreneurs launch new businesses. "Most minority businesses are small businesses," Green said.
The Financial Services Roundtable, a group of the nation's largest financial institutions, had supported the bill.
"Small businesses are the linchpin of our nation's economic growth and well-being," Steve Bartlett, the group's president, said last week.
The Small Business Jobs Act authorizes the creation of a $30 billion fund run by the Treasury Department that would deliver ultra-cheap capital to banks with less than $10 billion in assets.
The idea is that community banks do the lion's share of lending to small businesses, and pumping capital into them will get money in the hands of main-street businesses.
Another provision aims to increase the flow of capital by providing $1.5 billion in grants to state lending programs that in turn support loans to small businesses. The state programs have proven themselves to be efficient, targeted and effective, but with many states struggling to balance their budgets, the programs are going broke.
The bill would also provide a slew of tax breaks that will cost $12 billion over a decade, according to a preliminary estimate from the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The breaks aim to encourage small businesses to purchase new equipment, to incentivize venture capital firms to invest in small businesses, and to motivate entrepreneurs to start their own business.