U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe blasted Democratic leaders on the Senate floor Thursday, accusing them of delaying a small business lending package just to score political points.

She then voted with the GOP caucus to continue to filibuster the bill. With August recess approaching, the earliest Congress could take up the bill again would be in September.

As the top Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, Snowe helped write much of the bill, H.R. 5297, a version of which has passed in the U.S. House.

In a 13-minute floor speech, Snowe chided Democrats for dawdling on the bill and then trying to “ram it” through before recess to score political points by painting Republicans as obstructionist.

“Why don’t we take as long as it requires to do what’s right to try to get the best policy to create jobs in America instead of facing this figurative legislative brick wall that’s artificially contrived?” Snowe asked. “It’s all political theater; it’s not about legislating anymore.

“I’ve walked across the political aisle here; I wish more would do it on both sides — look at the policy and see what’s right and what works. The American people … can see through this masquerade,” she said.

The Senate version of the bill would provide more than $10 billion in tax breaks for small businesses, extend U.S. Small Business Administration lending guarantees, reform regulations to make lending easier, and create a grant program to support small business exports — all of which Snowe supports.

But she opposes a new $30 billion fund in the bill to make it easier to lend to small businesses through community banks.

Snowe has said she prefers seeing capital made available through existing, vetted SBA programs instead of creating a new untested program.

Democrats responded to Snowe by saying it was the Republicans who were playing partisan games with the bill.

“I do compliment the senator from Maine for standing with us on some very tough votes,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., on the floor. “But I have to say … of all the bills we’ve brought up, this is the most bipartisan. I think to make a process argument now is really a shame.”

Local bankers and business leaders said they support the bill. “It seems like the merits of the bill versus the politics of the day have taken two separate distinct paths,” said Chris Pinkham, president of the Maine Association of Community Banks.

Pinkham said his group supports the $30 billion fund that Snowe opposes.

“What’s different about this is that it’s actually a way to put capital into small banks and allow them to leverage that up and make that available in their community,” said Pinkham. “As the economy improves, we think there will be a stronger demand for small business lending, and we have no guarantee that there will be deposits in our banks to support that.”

Jeanne Hulit of Falmouth, the SBA regional administrator in New England, said the Obama administration supports both the fund and the overall bill.

“The particular provision that we’re very interested in is the extension of the recovery act provision that increased our loan guarantee to 90 percent and eliminated our fees,” she said.

Hulit said Snowe has supported extending enhanced SBA loans, which have boosted lending to small businesses.

“In Maine, there has been a 92 percent increase in the dollar loans of SBA guarantees in 2009 and also a 57 percent increase in our loan volume over 2008,” she said.