* House passes bill to ease capital raising for small firms
* White House, Senate Democrats express support
* Business community urges speedy Senate passage
(Adds comment from senate banking committee chairman)
By Alexandra Alper
WASHINGTON, March 8 In a rare display of
election-year bipartisanship, the House of Representatives voted
overwhelmingly on Thursday to make it easier for small
businesses, the engine of the U.S. economy, to raise capital and
eventually hire workers.
With unemployment hovering above 8 percent, both Democrats
and Republicans are eager to show voters they are trying to
create jobs ahead of the Nov. 6 elections. But the passage of
the bill stood in stark contrast to the partisan gridlock that
has stymied much bigger job creation measures in recent months.
And it is unclear just how many jobs the Republican measure,
the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act, will actually
create. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was dismissive of
its economic impact.
"While this little package is, I think, viewed positively,
it is not any substitute for the jobs bill that we need," she
The House bill, which passed 390 to 23, would relax certain
Securities and Exchange Commission requirements to make it
easier for small firms and startups to raise capital and boost
hiring. One measure would make it easier for firms to solicit
private investors, while another would relax filing requirements
associated with initial public offerings.
The JOBS Act gives House Republicans much-needed ammunition,
to counter President Barack Obama's re-election strategy of
running against a "do-nothing" Congress that paints the party as
obstructionist and unwilling to work with him to tackle the
country's high unemployment rate.
Eric Cantor, the No. 2 Republican in the House who
championed the bill, acknowledged that it was aimed at boosting
Congress's poor approval ratings, which are at near record lows.
"What we're trying to do is to regain the confidence of the
people that sent us here," Cantor told reporters. "By having a
win like this I think we can demonstrate that we really can work
Passage of the bill came a day before the U.S. government
was due to release its jobless figures for February. The 8.3
percent unemployment rate is not expected to change.
The bill repackaged some measures approved by the
Republican-controlled House last year. It now goes to the
Senate, where Democrats are expected to unveil a similar package
as early as next week.
Senate Banking Committee chairman Tim Johnson said in a
statement that the Senate version will include some job creation
proposals which are part of President Obama's Startup America
The U.S. government says small businesses - those with 500
or fewer employees - employ about half of all private sector
workers. Many small firms complain that they are hampered by red
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill's net
annual cost to be about $50 million, which the SEC could offset
with fees it is authorized to collect from the firms it
Both exchange operator NYSE Euronext and the Chamber of
Commerce, the nation's largest business lobbying group, praised
the bill and leaned on the Senate to approve it.
"We urge the Senate to take up the JOBS Act expeditiously so
Americans can get back to work," Bruce Josten, a chamber
lobbyist, said in a statement.
(Editing by Ross Colvin and Cynthia Osterman)