With November in Mind, House Passes a Jobs Bill
By JONATHAN WEISMAN
Published: March 8, 2012
WASHINGTON — The House overwhelmingly approved legislation on Thursday to ease small businesses’ access to investments and capital markets, a sign that the shadow of the November election is pressing Congress into action.
The large margin of victory — the bill passed 390 to 23 — on the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act is expected to propel the legislation into law. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said a Senate version would probably be unveiled early next week. It largely reflects the House bill, which is known as the JOBS Act, and Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he expected it to pass before the end of the month.
The vote came on the same day that Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio said that the House was likely to set aside contentious efforts to draft its own transportation and infrastructure bill and take up a bipartisan Senate version once it passed. The Senate version cleared a crucial procedural hurdle on Thursday on the way to expected passage early next week.
Republican leaders were open about the political pressure that was driving them toward bipartisanship.
“We are in an election season, and the test for any candidate is whether they can produce results,” Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader, said after the jobs bill passed.
Big fights are still ahead, especially over a budget proposal in the House and a dozen annual spending bills. But this week produced rare moments of cooperation among House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the White House.
“Today’s vote shows both sides should be able to find common ground on this issue, and the president urges them to pass a bill and bring it to his desk without delay,” said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman.
In a news conference, Mr. Reid called the House bill “commendable” and “a step forward,” and he urged the lower chamber to approve the Senate transportation bill.
If success produces a thousand fathers, the JOBS Act will need a paternity test. White House officials stressed that many elements of the House version originated with President Obama’s jobs council and proposals he laid out in the fall. And Mr. Schumer noted that he and Senator Patrick Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, first introduced the centerpiece of the House bill, which is ascribed to the freshman Representative Stephen Fincher, Republican of Tennessee.
The one sour note came on Wednesday when Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, angrily accused House Republican leaders of stealing a bill written by a Democrat, Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, and giving it to a Republican, Representative Ben Quayle of Arizona.
After Representative Jeb Hensarling, Republican of Texas, said Democrats were too concerned about credit, Mr. Frank accused him of issuing “the most hypocritical and dishonest statement” he had “ever heard uttered in this House.” The words were stricken from the official record.
The jobs legislation is narrowly tailored, even though it is being praised by all sides as a big help to the economy. The centerpiece would delay some Securities and Exchange Commission regulations that were passed as a response to the recession and would create a category of “emerging growth companies” that would lower the costs of initial public offerings for smaller firms.
Another measure would abolish an S.E.C. rule that prohibits small companies from advertising for investors, a ban that dates to 1982. The bill would also lift restrictions on “crowd funding,” which would let entrepreneurs raise capital from large pools of small investors. And the JOBS Act would increase the number of shareholders permitted to invest in a community bank to 2,000, from 500.
The 23 members who voted against the bill were mostly from the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party, and they expressed concern that the bill went too far in dismantling regulations that were intended to protect investors.
But for most, the imperative was to be seen as doing something about the recovering, but still anemic, job market.
Representative Shelley Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia, said: “I think there’s a huge sense of frustration with everybody, regardless of party. Nothing’s getting done on the most significant issue facing them.” She said lawmakers would say that their votes were not about the election, but, she added, “Obviously you turn the corner in an election year.”
The transportation bill will be promoted as a jobs measure, too. Mr. Boehner surprised many Republicans when he told reporters what he had been hinting for a week: “The current plan is to see what the Senate can produce and to bring that bill up.”
That would be a retreat for Mr. Boehner, who had pressed for a five-year transportation bill to be financed by opening up vast tracts of federal property — on land and sea — to oil production. Representative Bill Shuster, Republican of Pennsylvania, who was put in charge of the bill after the chairman of the House transportation committee failed to unite Republicans, expressed surprise at Mr. Boehner’s statement.
But Ms. Capito, a member of the committee, said she understood the politics behind the announcement.
“It’ll bring a different dynamic if the Senate passes a bill, and we’re the ones holding back,” she said. “Our constituents want something done.”