Outside of Ohio, Steve Chabot’s name may not mean much to small business owners. However, he may soon be one of their most influential representatives in Washington.
Rep. Chabot (R) is the most likely candidate to replace Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.) as chairman of the House Small Business Committee at the end of the year, according to a congressional staffer familiar with the discussions. Graves will be stepping down in accordance with self-imposed six-year term limits agreed to by all House Republicans.
Others interested in the gavel include Republican Reps. Scott Tipton (Colo.), Chris Collins (N.Y.) and Richard Hanna (N.Y.), according to the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the discussions are intended to be private. All three currently serve as chair of one of the small business panel’s subcommittees.
Chabot, who has spent 18 years on the Hill, holds seniority over other Republicans on the committee, though. In addition, he previously served as the panel’s ranking member before losing his reelection bid for Congress in 2008. He won back the seat two years later, but the chairmanship was handed to Graves when Republicans took the House.
A Republican steering committee comprised of several party leaders plans to vote to determine the new committee chairs shortly after the midterm elections in November. The leadership transition is likely to take place with the start of the new Congress in January.
Brian Griffith, a spokesperson for Chabot, said chairing the small business panel “is definitely a post he’s interested in.” And while the congressman is currently focusing on the upcoming elections, Griffith said Chabot has “started talking to small businesses and key stakeholders about ideas they have in mind and the most important issues facing them.”
An avid proponent of fiscal belt-tightening, Chabot has spent much of his nearly two decades in Congress looking for ways to cut wasteful spending and lower taxes. On his Web site, he argues that in order to revive the economy, “the federal government must not continue to stifle growth with the threat of new taxes, burdensome regulations and other policies counterproductive to job creation.”
Specifically, he says lawmakers should “remove the obstacles to job creation faced by startups and entrepreneurs,” citing data from the Kauffman foundation showing that new firms generate the majority of new jobs created in the United States. Last year, he introduced legislation intended to ease some patent laws for small, innovative firms.
Chabot also sponsored a bill that would increase the Small Business Administration’s funding authority for certain Small Business Investment Companies, which generally invest in young, fast-growing ventures. This summer, he proposed creating an income tax credit for individuals who invest in early-stage companies.
In many ways, a Chabot agenda — less spending, fewer regulations and more access to capital — would pick up right where Graves leaves off.
During the past six years, the Missouri representative has challenged countless regulations he believes hit small businesses particularly hard and he has pushed the SBA to strengthen some of its longstanding lending and investment programs. He has also led the committee’s efforts to eliminate fraud in the federal contracting arena and help small companies win for more government work.
Chabot wouldn’t likely be the only new face of small businesses in Congress next year.
Should Republicans take back the Senate, as many predict (The Washington Post’s own forecasts currently put the chances at 96 percent), they would take control of the chamber’s committees, too. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, would be the most likely choice to take the gavel.
Like Chabot, Risch has backed legislation that would require regulators to take a closer look at how new and existing federal rules affect small businesses, as well as several bills intended to expand access to capital for entrepreneurs. Last year, he introduced in the Senate the very same proposal to expand the Small Business Investment Companies program that Chabot pitched in the House.
If Democrats fail to retain control of the chamber as expected, Risch or another Republican would take over for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who stepped into the role less than a year ago following a reshuffling of the Senate committee leadership in February.