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After House, Senate Pushes JOBS Act Through


There was a bipartisan spirit on Capitol Hill today. The U.S. Senate voted to approve two major bills and a number of judges. One of those bills was the JOBS Act. The bill seeks to streamline regulations and make it easier for smaller companies to raise money and go public. The idea being that it will encourage job growth. The bill passed by an overwhelming majority.

But as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, bipartisanship isn't always pretty.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: Facing record low approval ratings, Congress has been in a hurry to do something - anything - especially about the economy and jobs. The House passed the JOBS Act by a huge majority, 390-to-23. And when the bill came to the Senate, they did just the same thing, 73-to-26. The 26 voting against the bill were all Democrats. That gave Republicans in the Senate something to crow about. Here's John Thune of South Dakota.

SENATOR JOHN THUNE: We're delighted to actually be able to say that the Senate is functioning effectively in a bipartisan way. It took a long time to get here. This was not the path, I think, that probably most of us would have liked to have seen this go.

GLINTON: The central idea of the JOBS Act is it will clean up regulations that make it hard for small companies to go public or raise money to expand. It passed very quickly out of the house, but excitement started to cool when criticism arose among consumer advocates, most notably from the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Mary Schapiro.

She wrote a six-page letter to senators. In it, she said, some of the language in the bill was so broad that, quote, "it would eliminate important protections for investors, even in very large companies." That letter got the attention of some Democratic senators.

SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU: Didn't we just almost bring the world economy to a halt? Did I miss this?

GLINTON: Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.

LANDRIEU: And so this little innocuous bill flies over here from the House with a fancy name talking about jobs, so we just look at the title of the bill. It says jobs, and we just can't wait to vote for it. But if we're not careful, it will not create jobs, Mr. President, it will kill jobs.

GLINTON: Landrieu's pleas for an amendment that she says would have protected investors was defeated, as was an amendment that would have extended funding to the Export-Import Bank. That's a government agency that helps U.S. exporters. Both those provisions failed.

Democrats did get a change that they wanted that would have protected those who invest on the Internet. Scott Brown is the Republican of Massachusetts. He was the lone Republican to vote for all three of those amendments. He faces a tough general election campaign. He brushes off criticism that the bill will hurt investors.

SENATOR SCOTT BROWN: I disagree with it. I think it makes it stronger for investors and this is a good jobs bill. Otherwise, it wouldn't have passed the House overwhelmingly and the Senate overwhelmingly. It's a good first step to getting our country moving and creating jobs.

GLINTON: Mark Wood is a partner with Katten Muchin Rosenman. He's been practicing securities law for 20 years. He says both sides are kind of right. Wood says, for smaller businesses, he thinks it's a good thing.

MARK WOOD: They will be able to approach potential investors in a much broader way and so it should facilitate smaller companies raising the money they need to grow their businesses.

GLINTON: The bad part, Wood says, is that everyday people are likely to start getting a whole array of offers by email, on Facebook and even commercials on TV.

WOOD: And some of them may be real, some of them may be scams and even the real ones may be very risky. Probably the vast majority are going to be very risky.

GLINTON: When talking about the JOBS Act, Republicans consistently invoke the name of the president as a reason to move swiftly. He says he'll sign the bill after both houses hash out their differences.

Sonari Glinton, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sonari Glinton is a NPR Business Desk Correspondent based at our NPR West bureau. He covers the auto industry, consumer goods, and consumer behavior, as well as marketing and advertising for NPR and Planet Money.