The Senate appeared to be on track Tuesday to clear a House-passed small-business capital formation bill this week, but the rare spectacle of bipartisanship and inter-chamber cooperation might be short-lived. There is no grand push for other bills, and other more contentious issues, such as the budget, are beginning to crowd the legislative calendar.
Aside from the capital formation bill, other possibilities include a bill that would strengthen the law against Members of Congress engaging in insider trading and a proposal by House Republicans that would give a 20 percent tax cut to small businesses.
“There are plenty of opportunities for bipartisanship in the coming weeks,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said.
A House GOP aide agreed that bipartisanship is possible but stressed that both parties must be open to seizing the opportunities. But such circumstances will likely become more difficult to achieve as the November elections grow nearer, the aides acknowledged.
The aides’ comments came as the Senate was poised to pass the capital formation bill — formally known as the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act — which was approved by the House, 390-23, earlier this month. The legislation, a priority for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), was embraced by President Barack Obama, which gave the measure momentum in a Congress otherwise defined by partisan bickering.
The Senate is expected to clear the measure before the end of the week. On Tuesday, the Senate rejected a Democratic amendment, 55-44, that would have attached increased consumer protection provisions to the bill. Sixty votes were needed for the measure to continue through the legislative process.
The Senate also defeated a Democratic amendment, 55-44, that would have reauthorized the Export-Import Bank after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged his Members to oppose the proposal.
McConnell said that while there is support from Republicans for the bank, which helps finance exports to foreign buyers, he wants to ensure the underlying bill gets to the president as soon as possible. Conservatives, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), came out against the Export-Import Bank proposal, calling it corporate welfare.
“It’s important that we get this down to the president,” McConnell said, adding that attaching the bank provision would delay the bill’s enactment.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) argued that the measure should be attached to the House bill because it would create jobs and needs to be reauthorized as soon as possible. Reid and other Democratic leaders appeared to be caught off guard when the amendment did not pass and held a caucus meeting after the vote.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.