J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled a package of uncontroversial measures they said will help small businesses raise capital and create jobs while showing that Congress can put aside its partisan differences and act in the country's economic interests.
The White House said it was encouraged by the GOP action, but House Democrats noted that four of the six bills in the package have already passed the House by wide margins and said it fell well short of the comprehensive jobs legislation that is needed.
The six bills would ease federal security regulations to make it easier for small businesses and entrepreneurs to attract investors and go public.
"We're here to make sure we can jumpstart the economy," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said. He said the White House has called for action to help new businesses "and that is exactly what the bill does."
The package, introduced at a news conference where Republican leaders were surrounded by entrepreneurs, comes amid the election-year sparring in which the two parties are trying to convince voters that they have the best approach to job creation.
The House GOP jobs agenda has focused on passing dozens of bills — all stalled in the Democratic-controlled Senate — focused on developing domestic energy resources and curbing Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agency regulations that Republicans say have stifled jobs growth. President Barack Obama in September outlined a $447 billion jobs package that included infrastructure projects, the rebuilding of schools, and helping local governments pay teacher and firefighter salaries.
At least for a day, the two sides called a truce: White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage pointed to Obama's September jobs package and said the president was "encouraged to see that there is common ground between his approach and what Congressman Cantor outlined today."
Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were to hold a lunch meeting at the White House Wednesday with Democratic and Republican leaders from both the House and Senate. The White House said the meeting would focus on finding common ground legislative priorities that could strengthen the economy and lead to job creation.
Also on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the Senate Banking Committee next week will hold hearings on several proposals to help small businesses. Four of those are companion bills to those included in the House package.
"Red tape, bureaucracy, lack of access to capital make it difficult to create new businesses," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. "I hope the Democrats and the White House will join us in moving this very important bill."
Four of the bills passed the House last year with more than 400 votes in the 435-member chamber, and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said there was no reason they wouldn't pass overwhelmingly when offered again as a package.
But he added that it was a "pretense" to repackage old bills that already have passed. "This clearly is not the jobs bill that we are looking for, a comprehensive, jobs-producing, jobs-stimulating piece of legislation."
The bills would take such steps as removing a Securities and Exchange Commission ban preventing small businesses from using advertisements to solicit investors; eliminating SEC restrictions that prevent "crowdfunding" so entrepreneurs can raise equity capital from a large pool of small investors; making it easier for small businesses to go public by increasing the threshold under which companies are exempt from SEC registration; and raising the shareholder registration requirement threshold from 500 shareholders to 1,000 shareholders.
Hoyer noted that one of the bills, which would increase the number of shareholders that may invest in a community bank before it has to register with the SEC, passed in November under the sponsorship of a Democrat, Rep. Jim Himes of Connecticut. But the nearly identical version introduced Tuesday is sponsored by Arizona Republican Rep. Ben Quayle, who is now engaged in a tough primary battle.
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