The Senate today took a big step toward passing a House-passed small-business capital formation measure when it voted to cut off debate on the legislation.
The Senate voted 76-22 to invoke cloture on the bill, formally known as the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, and is expected to approve the measure as soon as this evening. Only a simple majority will be needed to pass the bill, as opposed to the 60 votes that were needed to cut off debate.
Twenty-two Democrats voted against cutting off debate, likely to protest the failure of an amendment that would have added a raft of consumer protection provisions. That amendment was defeated Tuesday, 55-44. Sixty votes were needed for the amendment to be approved. Thirty Democrats voted to invoke cloture.
Just before the cloture vote, Sen. Carl Levin (Mich.), who was one of several Democrats hoping to add the changes to the bill, urged his colleagues to oppose the measure.
Levin warned that it would roll back key disclosure requirements for certain stock offerings and would make it difficult for the Securities and Exchange Commission to prevent fraud.
“This is not a bill which would allow opportunities for new workers, but one which would create new opportunities for fraudsters and boiler room crooks,” Levin said.
The Senate defeated another Democratic amendment Tuesday, also 55-44, that would have reauthorized the Export-Import Bank. Authorization for the bank, which helps finance exports to foreign buyers, expires at the end of May but is expected to hit its lending limit before then.
While many Republicans support the bank, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urged a no vote on the amendment Tuesday to keep the bill as close to the House version as possible and get it to the president as soon as possible.
Conservatives, including Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), came out against the proposal, calling it corporate welfare.
The Senate had been scheduled to vote on cloture on the House bill Tuesday, but Senate Democratic leaders seemed to be caught off guard by the defeat of the Export-Import Bank amendment, a proposal that Democrats had been counting on Republicans to support.
After the bank amendment vote, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) adjourned the Senate and held a caucus meeting. The decision was subsequently made to hold the cloture vote this morning.
Democrats that had been pushing for increased consumer protections were disappointed that there would be no other opportunities to attach them to the bill. If the bank amendment had been adopted, there likely would have been a conference with the House, when they could have pushed for inclusion of their amendment.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on Tuesday evening said that President Barack Obama forced Senate Democrats’ hand on the bill after he came out in favor of the House measure, where it passed overwhelmingly, 390-23.
Asked whether it was a mistake for Obama to so quickly endorse the House bill, Landrieu said, “I do think it was.
“It should have gone through committee,” Landrieu added.
Reid had intended to have the Senate Banking Committee draft its own version but decided to move the House package after Obama’s endorsement and a barrage of criticism from House and Senate Republicans who urged quick passage.