Parties wrangle to get credit for legislation
Jobs Act package aids economy with six bills
Leave it to Washington to pick a fight over noncontroversial legislation everyone loves.
With a bipartisan, White House-backed package aimed at helping small businesses easily passing the House last week and poised for similar success in the Senate, both parties and the administration are scrambling to claim credit for its pending success.
House Republicans have touted their Jobs Act, a bundle of six bills — three of which passed the House last year with overwhelming bipartisan support — as a significant step toward jump-starting the still sluggish economy.
“The president asked us in his State of the Union address to send him a bill that helps business startups. The Jobs Act does just that,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, said moments after the measure passed Thursday by a vote of 390-23.
The package is aimed at easing Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and giving small businesses better access to capital.
One of the bills would make it easier for small businesses to go public by increasing the offering threshold for companies exempted from SEC registration to $50 million from $5 million.
The measure passed the House in November by a vote of 421-1, though it hasn’t come up for a vote in the Senate.
Another measure would lift an SEC ban preventing small businesses from using advertisements to solicit investors, while still another would allow businesses to recruit more investors without having to file as a public company.
But Democrats have accused Republicans of plagiarizing, saying that a bill in the package sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Quayle, Arizona Republican, that would allow community banks to avoid registering with the SEC closely resembles a Democratic bill that overwhelming passed the House last year.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican, and Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, argued on the House floor Wednesday regarding who should take credit for the Quayle bill.
“President Reagan once said there’s no limit to what the American people can achieve if they don’t mind who gets the credit,” Mr. Hensarling said. “We seem to hear the ranking member say; ‘If I and my friends can’t take credit, we’re going to pick up our toys and go home.’ ”
Mr. Frank shot back, accusing the Texas Republican of engaging in a “shameful maneuver.”
“To now accuse [Democrats] of being excessively concerned with credit is the most hypocritical and dishonest statement I have heard uttered in this House,” he said.
Mr. Frank’s comments were deemed “offending” and stricken from the official record.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, while voting for the package, chided Republicans for touting the measure as a major jobs-enhancing initiative, calling it “jobs bill light.”
“It’s so meager,” she said. “Yes, it’s a good thing . . . but let’s not mistake it for what we need to do for a real serious, comprehensive jobs bill for our country.”
The package has broad support in the Senate, though Democrats there want to put their own stamp on it.
“I’m not here to bemoan and say the House bill is very bad, because it’s a step forward,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat. But “we’ll come up with our own bill and we’ll move as quickly as we can on that legislation.”
The White House last week issued a statement supporting the House package but added that President Obama already proposed several initiatives to help small businesses, items he included in an address to Congress last September and in his Startup America Legislative Agenda he sent to Capitol Hill last month.
“In both the speech and the agenda, the president called for cutting the red tape that prevents many rapidly growing startup companies from raising needed capital,” the statement said. “The president is encouraged to see that there is common ground between his approach and some of the proposals in” the House measure.
Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts (above), ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, got worked up over who deserves credit for a bill that assists community banks. Rep. Jeb Hensarling (right), Texas Republican, said Mr. Frank was being petty about the matter.