Bipartisan JOBS Act advances in the House

The bill is broadly aimed at making capital formation easier for new companies. Among other things, it creates a new class of companies that would enjoy relaxed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules, allowing small companies to go public sooner.

The bill also ends an SEC ban on small company advertisements to solicit capital, allows "crowdfunding," increases the offering threshold from $5 million to $50 million before SEC registration is required, raises the shareholder registration requirement from 500 to 1,000 shareholders, and increases the number of shareholders allowed to invest in community banks from 500 to 2,000.

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Even as they spoke in favor of the bill, however, Democrats tried to downplay it by accusing Republicans of playing it up as a major jobs achievement, and noting that much of the language in the bill has already been approved as stand-alone legislation in this Congress.

"Let's pass this bill. I'm confident it will pass overwhelmingly," Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said. "Let's call upon the Senate to pass it, but let's not pretend that this is some kind of jobs bill for our country, or that this is in any way shape or form restores the fiscal integrity of our nation."

Polis said Congress needs to tackle much larger issues, such as business tax reform and reining in the federal debt.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) made the same point. "This is a perfectly nice bill, but things are sometimes judged in comparison," he said. "It is being hailed as a bigger bill than it is, but that's what happens when you grade on a curve.

"It's getting pumped up a little bit so we can avoid here as a collective body the charge that we haven't done anything."

Frank, who is retiring at the end of this year, also complained that Republicans were only allowing 10 minutes of consideration for each of the 17 amendments that will be considered later today.

"It's not as if we've been so busy that we couldn't carve out time for 20 minutes or even a half hour of debate. So I regret the dumbing down of the House, which is represented by saying that no issue will be debated for more than 10 minutes."

Following the rule vote, members began general debate on the bill and were expected to start work on amendments later in the day.