Partisan rancor appears to be building in the Senate around a bipartisan House-passed bill designed to help small businesses raise capital.
Senate Democrats have been drafting their version of the bipartisan measure, which they expect to unveil this week, and hope to pass it before the end of the month.
But Senate Republicans want the chamber to take up the House bill, dubbed the JOBS Act. They argue it would pass with an overwhelming majority similar to Thursday’s 390-23 House approval.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “has said that he is going to introduce another bill, of course we want to look at that,” Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said on a conference call with reporters Friday. “I just hope that that is not an excuse to delay when we have got one that passed so overwhelmingly with Democratic votes in the House. Taking up the House bill would certainly expedite the procedure.”
Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who was also on the call, said the House version should be the vehicle and could be amended on the Senate floor.
“I can’t think of a good reason why this isn’t a terrific vehicle,” Toomey said. “My own personal hope is that he would put it on the floor with an open amendment process and, by all means, let everybody have their shot on improving on it if they can. I think that is the best way to get a successful outcome.”
A senior GOP aide accused the Democrats, who have the majority in the Senate, of having a strategy to change the bill and try to make a political issue out of it.
“In their desperation to cling to power, Democrats are cynically using every opportunity they can to ruin the most bipartisan exercise in Washington this year,” the aide said.
A senior Senate Democratic aide said Republicans are the ones seeking to play politics with the issue by making it difficult for the Senate to work its will.
“There is no dramatic tension over this despite their best efforts to create it,” the aide said.
“We’ve been working on the bill for months,” the aide said, adding that they do not want to short-circuit the regular order process.
“Our bill lines up with theirs in general,” the aide said, adding that the Senate Banking Committee is weighing various Senate approaches to the House package and that “we are working through that.”
The aide also said that writing a new version in committee would be faster than taking up the House bill because of the number of time-consuming procedural votes that would likely need to be taken to overcome objections to the House measure.
To overcome a blockade or filibuster mounted by even one Senator, the chamber must wait 30 hours before voting on whether to cut off debate and another 30 hours after successfully securing 60 votes before it can vote directly on the motion to proceed, the measure or an amendment.
But Republicans are wary of the Democrats’ bill because it is unclear what will end up in the measure, despite Democrats’ insistence that they are trying to write a bipartisan package.
At a press conference Thursday, Senate Democratic Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said the Senate bill would include more consumer and investor protection initiatives.
The House bill “is filled with good things and leader Reid has said we will move a similar bill in the Senate,” said Schumer, who also heads the Senate Democrats’ policy and communications unit.
“Our bill will have more consumer protection, investor protections, but it will be similar. We are not standing in the way of their bill because it originated over there,” he said.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who is chairman of the Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment, said that finding the right balance between consumer protection and ease of capital formation has been his guiding principle.
“We want to make sure they are properly balanced,” Reed said of the package. He added that if the balance is off, it could dissuade investors and defeat the purpose of the bill.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he initially had some concerns with the bill, but he now has “fewer issues” as the process of drafting the measure has continued.
Levin did not provide many details but said he is concerned about removing restrictions on how capital can be raised, a provision in the House bill.
He explained that one of his issues is “whether or not you can raise capital on the Internet; whether that could turn into a boiler room type of operation.”
The White House so far is attempting to stay above the fray, declining comment on the legislative wrangling Friday. But the White House’s endorsement of the House bill did leave room for more tweaking to come.
“The administration looks forward to continuing to work with the House and the Senate to craft legislation that facilitates capital formation and job growth for small businesses and provides appropriate investor protections,” the administration said in its Statement of Administration Policy.
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.