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Following a tense standoff that threatened to paralyze the floor for weeks, Senate Democrats and Republicans are claiming victory after reaching an agreement to take up a House-passed small-business bill and vote on 14 judicial nominations in the coming weeks.
But passage of the bipartisan Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act is far from secure, as Senate Democratic leaders appear split over Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) decision to bring up the House-passed measure instead of a reworked Senate version.
Democrats, such as Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.), hope to add consumer protections and other provisions to the measure, which could complicate the future of the bill being championed by another Democratic leader, Conference Vice Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.). The measure also has support from President Barack Obama.
On the floor Tuesday, Durbin declared a provision in the House bill that would allow startup businesses to raise capital online “Internet gambling.” He lamented that the measure could lead to “irrational exuberance” — a reference to a term used by former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan to warn against the dot-com bubble — leaving taxpayers on the hook to clean up the mess. The measure is opposed by a host of consumer protection groups, including AARP.
But Schumer said the bipartisan deal to take up the House-passed bill and an agreement to vote on a number of stalled judicial nominees was a victory for Democrats. He argued Reid was planning to move to the House bill anyway — which is also known as the initial public offering bill — after passing a $109 billion transportation bill. However, Reid indicated last week that he preferred to take up a Senate-authored version, rather than the House version of the measure.
Still, Schumer said “we are batting three-for-three this week in terms of important issues: a highway bill, judicial nominees and an IPO bill.”
But several Senate Democrats, such as Durbin, are concerned the measure would relax important financial regulations. Durbin said in his floor speech that he and others would offer their own substitute.
In addition to consumer protection amendments, Democrats also want to include an amendment from Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) that would reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, which expires at the end of May.
The problem is that if Senate Democrats tinker too much with the bill, they run the risk of making it unpalatable to House Republicans, which would open up Democrats to attacks that they are politicizing a bipartisan package.
Senate GOP Conference Chairman John Thune said Democrats should refrain from adding too many controversial amendments that might stall passage of the measure and that a clean bill could garner 75 to 80 votes.