The US Senate cleared a key hurdle Tuesday toward passage of a bill endorsed by President Barack Obama to provide billions in aid and tax breaks for small businesses hurt by the struggling economy.
Senators voted 61-37 to end debate and bring up a formal vote on the bill, which has faced weeks of political wrangling between the White House and opposition Republicans.
A final vote is expected later this week.
Until now, Republicans had kept the measure bottled up using procedural tactics that require a supermajority of 60 votes in the 100-member Senate to break.
Two Republican senators, George Voinovich and George LeMieux, joined with Democrats to bring the bill up for a vote.
The measure, if enacted, would provide 30 billion dollars in loans for small business and another 12 billion in tax breaks including investment credits.
The president and Democrats argue that the measure could help spur up to 500,000 jobs.
“Small businesses are the engine that drives our economy,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The House of Representatives, which adopted a similar measure in June, will vote on the Senate version of the bill if the senators vote for final passage.
2010 Associated Press