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Friday, March 9, 2012

Small-business bill gets broad House support

WASHINGTON – A modest package of proposals aimed at expanding small business’ access to capital cleared the House with broad bipartisan support, a rare accomplishment in this politically divided Congress that puts the legislation on track for passage.

President Barack Obama repeatedly has called on Congress to send him such measures that he could sign into law.

“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,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., the House majority leader.

The bill, he said, provides a “real shot in the arm to entrepreneurs, small-business men and women, removes red tape, allows small businesses an easier time to go about starting up, as well as retaining and creating jobs.”

The economy’s ability to create jobs has been a top issue for voters this election year, and passage of the so-called Jumpstart Our Business Startups, or JOBS, Act would give Republicans and Democrats a legislative victory.

Yet nothing is easy in partisan Washington, even though the package was approved on a 390-23 vote with bipartisan support from 232 Republicans and 158 Democrats. All of those voting no were Democrats.

The Senate, where Democrats have the majority, is in no rush to approve the measure. The GOP-led House has passed several initiatives – particularly those aimed at reducing or eliminating various federal regulations – that have stalled in the Senate.

Democrats in the Senate want to beef up the protections for investors in the jobs package. But any changes to the legislation would require the chambers to compromise.

“Our bill will have some more consumer protections, investor protections, but it will be similar,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the No. 3 Democrat in the Senate.

The chamber is expected to begin consideration of its version of the jobs package next week.

The House version was a compilation of bills that would exempt smaller businesses from certain capital formation rules required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, including one that would exempt from regulation securities offerings that do not exceed $50 million. Another would loosen restrictions on soliciting capital across state lines.

Several of the bills already had been approved last year by broad majorities in the House, leaving Democrats to criticize Republicans as simply recycling old ideas that have been shown to have bipartisan support.

Other provisions would exempt from certain reporting requirements securities that are “crowd-funded” from small group investment pools and would define an “emerging growth company” as one that does not exceed $1 billion in annual gross revenue.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce welcomed passage of the bill as one that provides “important reforms and lessens regulatory burdens that will remove obstacles that have prevented business formation in the numbers we have come to expect.”