WASHINGTON, D.C. - Legislation aimed at easing government regulation on start-up companies cleared the House today with an overwhelming bipartisan majority. It comes as the Senate announced it could come forward with a "similar" but separate bill next week.
Dubbed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, the proposal is a collection of six bills with the goal of encouraging small business growth by making it easier for them to go public and easing access to capital, among other measures.
One aspect of the legislation is designed to eliminate restrictions from the Securities and Exchange Commission on "crowdfunding." The term applies to a popular method for small businesses to raise revenue through a pooled fund of contributors, usually found through the Internet.
Lawmakers passed the JOBS Act 390 to 23, with many in the Republican-dominated House praising the effort as a rare show of bipartisanship. In a press conference Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Congress was trying to "regain the confidence" of its constituents after months of gridlock.
"What it demonstrates is that we are able to set aside our differences when we want to and come together for producing results that people want to see," Cantor said.
As with all things Capitol Hill, the JOBS Act is not all roses. Some Democrats have chided the Republican-sponsored measure for not going far enough and others have questioned why this particular legislation found bipartisan footing when many similar bills introduced in recent months were dead on arrival. Every single vote against the JOBS Act was from Democrats.
Democratic leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi called today's vote "Jobs Bill Light," and suggested her counterparts were "off the track" for focusing on the JOBS Act over a long-tabled transportation bill she deemed was a more robust method of job creation.
"Instead of working together on a transportation bill which is one of the biggest initiatives Congress can pass, the Republicans are once again bringing to the floor some bills that we've passed before, overwhelmingly," Pelosi said. "They're non-controversial."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today praised the House of Representatives for moving forward with the small business jobs bill and says they will "try to do something" similar in the upper chamber to match the bill.
"The House bill is not perfect," Reid said on the Senate floor this morning, "we're glad it is moving forward, and we're going to try to do something here to match so we can get to conference and get this done. I'm hopeful that when Democrats reach across the aisle we'll find willing partners on the other side for a change. "
The Senate will not be taking up the House bill and making changes to it, instead taking up their own bill that they've been working on for months, Senate aides say.
At a press conference later in the day Reid said that next week the body would move a "similar bill" for consideration.
"Our bill will have some more consumer protections, investor protections, but it will be similar," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY., told reporters today. "We're not standing in the way of their bill because it originated over there. Make no mistake we're going to pass a small business bill similar to the one the House is producing."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that since the White House has issued a statement of support for the jobs bill coming out of the House that the Senate should pass the bill untouched immediately.
"It is ready to go, and I hope that once it gets over to the Senate we'll simply take it up and pass it," McConnell said. "It's an example of a measure that is supported by Republicans and Democrats and the president that we believe will clear the house with a very large majority. I think the sooner we pass that here in the Senate and send it down to the president for signature, the better."