Republican Senator Voinovich offers 60th vote for small-business bill

Rachel Rose Hartman
Sen. George Voinovich walks on the White House lawn in January.
Sen. George Voinovich walks on the White House lawn in January.

Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich broke from his party Friday and disclosed that he's willing to support the president's small-business tax bill when Congress returns this month.

Voinovich told Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post that he will no longer support Republican efforts to delay the bill in the Senate. "We don't have time for messaging," he said. "We don't have time anymore. This country is really hurting."

President Obama has been lauding the bill as a key plank in his economic recovery plan, but until Voinovich's announcement, it had failed to gain any Republican support in the Senate. The legislation aims to spur hiring by offering tax breaks and other incentives to small-business employers. Opponents say the measure would unduly increase the federal deficit;  in addition, Senate Republicans have complained that their Democratic counterparts effectively blocked them from tacking GOP amendments onto the legislation during debate in the chamber.

But Voinovich is preparing to bend on the amendment fight. "Voinovich said he told Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that, if a single amendment to reduce paperwork for business owners is considered on the floor, he would add his vote to that of the 59 senators who caucus with Democrats," Montgomery wrote.

The bill currently claims the support of all those 59 lawmakers — 57 Democrats, plus the Senate's two Independents, who both caucus with the party. Voinovich's planned support would allow the legislation to clear the 60-vote hurdle required to stave off a prospective GOP filibuster.

Passing the small-business package would offer the president and Democrats a key economic victory ahead of the midterm elections. Meanwhile, unlike the majority of his colleagues, Voinovich isn't running any political risks by siding with Democrats — he retires in January.

(Photo: AP/Alex Brandon)