- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Senate on Tuesday voted down a Democratic alternative to a House Republican small-business package, leaving the Democratic-controlled upper chamber with two options: accept the House bill or reject a measure supported by President Obama.

After losing votes on two Democratic amendments to the measure, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, ended the day’s session, pushing back to Wednesday the key test vote on the House bill.

The so called Jobs Act, a bundle of six bills - three of which previously passed the House with wide bipartisan support but stalled in the Senate - was packaged by House Republican leaders and easily passed the lower chamber.

But the Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposed Democratic substitute that its backers said would beef up investor protections weakened by the House bill.

“This [House bill], as it is currently drafted, is not ready to become law - and if it does, it could have unintended consequences that hurt investors, seniors and average American families,” said Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, who sponsored his party’s version.

The substitute failed by a vote of 55-44, mostly along party lines, falling short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate and proceed toward a final vote. Sen. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts was the lone Republican to support the measure, while no Democrats voted against it.

The Senate also rejected an amendment to the bill to reauthorize the federal Export-Import Bank, created in 1934 to help U.S. companies do business abroad by providing credit and loan guarantees to foreign customers when traditional financing is unavailable.

The 55-44 vote also fell five votes short of proceeding toward a final vote.

As Senate Democrats face the decision of whether to accept or reject the Jobs Act, Mr. Reid also signaled Tuesday that he would accept a House bill to ban insider trading for members of Congress.

A few senators from both parties oppose the House version of the so called Stock Act, which left out some key changes to a Senate version that passed earlier this year. Rather than reignite that fight, Mr. Reid used a parliamentary maneuver to block any alternatives and to force a vote on the House bill.

The Jobs Act is aimed at easing Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and giving small businesses better access to capital.

One of the bills would make it easier for small businesses to go public by increasing the offering threshold for companies exempted from SEC registration to $50 million from $5 million. The measure initially passed the House in November by a vote of 421-1.

Another measure would lift an SEC ban preventing small businesses from using advertisements to solicit investors, while still another would allow businesses to recruit more investors without having to file as a public company.

The White House supports the package, though it has pointed out that President Obama already has proposed several initiatives to help small businesses.

Democrats have chided Republicans for touting the package as a major jobs-enhancing initiative, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, calling it “jobs bill light.”

House Democrats also have accused Republicans of plagiarizing, saying that a bill in the package sponsored by Rep. Benjamin Quayle, Arizona Republican, that would allow community banks to avoid registering with the SEC is nearly identical to a Democratic bill that overwhelming passed the House last year.

Still, the measure passed with sweeping bipartisan support in the House earlier this month by a vote of 390-23.

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