By: Alexandra Alper
March 14, 2012
Startup bill gains steam in Congress
The Senate, eager to notch an election-year victory by boosting small business growth, is moving toward prompt passage of a measure that overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, said on Tuesday he would avoid a prolonged debate and accept the legislation that passed the Republican-controlled House by a vote of 390-23 last week.
The bill aims to encourage job creation by making it easier for small firms to raise capital. But it is not expected to make a major dent in the high U.S. unemployment rate.
"We're not going to have a knock-down, drag-out fight" on the measure, Reid said on the Senate floor. "If everybody loves the House bill so much, that's what we're going to vote on."
Later, asked by a reporter why Democrats were abandoning their plan to introduce their own jobs bill, Reid cited practicality. "I think a (House) vote of 390-23 was fairly very significant in my thought process," he said.
The move could also disarm Republican criticism that Democrats were delaying approval of the House jobs bill, at a time when millions of people are unemployed and the national jobless rate is 8.3 percent.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has warned that if Democrats drafted a "contentious" version instead of taking up the House bill, they would be sending two messages:
"First, that they're just not serious when they say they're focused on jobs. And second, that they'd rather spend their time manufacturing gridlock to create the illusion of conflict."
With Congress facing near record low approval ratings, both parties are eager to convince voters they are working to aid the economy's recovery.
However, much bigger measures aimed at job creation have stalled in the chamber and moderate Republican Senator Olympia Snowed announced last month she would not seek a fourth term because she was weary of the dysfunction paralyzing the chamber.
The House-passed bill would make it easier for firms to solicit private investors and relax filing requirements associated with initial public offerings.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said Reid will likely try to add an amendment that would reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank, something Republicans have opposed.
If the amendment fails to get folded into the bill, the Senate will still move to pass the overall legislation this month, the aide said.
The Ex-mi Bank, established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt, provides financing to U.S. exporters to make sales that are viewed as too risky by private banks.
Its charter is generally renewed for four or five years at a time, but the bank has been operating on temporary authority since October, and has run afoul of Republicans who have branded its mission as "corporate welfare."