The House approved a measure Thursday designed to make it easier for small businesses to launch initial public offerings, solicit new investors and eventually hire workers.
The JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) passed 390 to 23, with bipartisan support, which House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said should compel the Senate to consider the bill “in an expeditious fashion.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Thursday he would introduce similar legislation next week and “move as quickly as we can” to pass it, but said a highway bill current under consideration in the Senate would create more jobs faster than the House proposal.
The House bills passed Thursday would make it easier for small businesses to go public by lifting SEC restrictions on running advertisements soliciting new investors and permit “crowdfunding” so that entrepreneurs can raise equity capital from larger pools of small investors. Small private companies also would be able to sell up to $50 million in shares as part of a public offering before having to register with the SEC, and could have as many as 1,000 shareholders, up from the current cap of 500.
Four of the bills included in the package had already passed the House by wide margins. And despite its name, Republican leaders couldn’t say how many jobs the bill would help create.
“This is something that you measure later for down the road,” House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters this week. “We know there are jobs that aren’t being created because of the red tape.”
The vote came one day before the release of the Labor Department’s February unemployment report. Economists are predicting that the nation’s unemployment rate stayed the same last month, as the steady uptick in the job market encouraged more people to start looking for work again.
The issue of job creation — a key election year priority — has spawned effusive praise from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in recent days.
White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said Thursday’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.” Earlier in the week, the White House said President Obama was “encouraged” to see both sides working together on jobs legislation.
In response, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), a frequent Obama foe, called the White House support “good news” for small businesses.
Though most House Democrats voted for the bill Thursday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the proposal “so meager” and much less effective at creating jobs when compared to transportation funding bills under consideration in the House and Senate.
The Senate bill, set to be voted on Tuesday, is a two-year, $109 billion deal that would create or sustain almost 3 million jobs in the next two years, according to its backers, which include Democrats, Republicans, labor unions and business groups.
But Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a key backer of the bills approved Thursday, said Republicans would be introducing similarly modest legislation through the rest of the year.
“We’re taking pieces at a time,” McHenry told reporters this week. “One thing I’ve found inside this place is that big bills just collapse. So let’s just focus on small business, that’s the core of job creation. Let’s do a piece of that, and then we’ll come back.”
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost
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This post has been updated since it was first published.