House approves JOBS Act in 390-23 vote

The House Thursday afternoon overwhelmingly approved legislation aimed at easing the rules for capital formation for small companies, which Republicans hailed as a major job-creation bill but Democrats said is just a minor fix for the economy.

Members approved the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act in a 390-23 vote that saw 158 Democrats join every voting Republican in support of the bill. All "no" votes were Democrats.

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"In his State of the Union address, President Obama asked Congress to send him a bill that helps start-ups and entrepreneurs succeed," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said shortly before the final vote. "The JOBS Act that we'll be voting on today does exactly that.

"I strongly urge Sen. Reid to take up this bill as quickly as possible, and let's just get it to the president's desk." The Senate appears more likely to take up the bill, as the Obama administration supports the measure.

"The problem is that congressional performance in terms of producing results has been brought into question and what we are trying to do is regain the confidence of the people who sent us here," Cantor said after the vote. He said at this point you would have to "look far and wide" to find similar bipartisan bills to the JOBS act.

While the bill was clearly supported by both parties, Democrats argued over the last two days that Republicans should not overstate the impact it would have on jobs.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mocked the Republicans' jobs package Thursday, likening the "meager" bill to a "little king."

Asked during her weekly press conference why Democratic leaders haven't "trumpeted" the rare bipartisan nature of the Republicans' effort, Pelosi argued that the legislation is simply too small to have any significant impact on the economy.

Trumpets, she suggested, are reserved to announce major events. "[And] here comes the little king," she said, after making a trumpet sound of her own from the podium.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) urged passage of the bill, but added Wednesday, "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."

Democrats also said Republicans simply packaged six bills together into the measure, including four bills that the House had already approved. One piece of the bill, H.R. 3606, would create a new class of companies labeled as "emerging growth companies" that would enjoy relaxed rules under the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The bill also ends an SEC ban on small company advertisements to solicit capital, allows the solicitation of funds over the Internet, known as 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.

Bipartisan support for the bill made for relatively easy passage, although tempers did flare on Wednesday when House Financial Services Committee ranking member Barney Frank (D-Mass.) accused Republicans of allowing Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) to include his language on community bank shares instead of a bipartisan version pushed by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Jim Himes (D-Conn.).

Some have accused GOP leaders of trying to give Quayle a boost in his primary contest, one in which he will face Schweikert, although the overall bill also contains two elements from Schweikert. Nonetheless, Frank called the effort to give Quayle credit on an issue he had not worked on "shameful."

Frank also called the explanation for the maneuver by Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) as the "most hypocritical and dishonest statement I have ever heard uttered in this House." Those remarks on Wednesday were stricken from the record, and under House rules, prevented Frank from speaking on the House floor for the rest of the day.

But Frank, who will not seek reelection this year, was back on Thursday morning, and made only a mild criticism of the bill by indicating doubts about its ability to create jobs. He also clarified that the rules the bill would ease are mostly those that were not put in place by the Obama administration, and instead have been longstanding requirements for companies.

"I appreciate the more conciliatory tone in today's debate," Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) said in reply. "And it's fantastic … to have the ranking member back in debating form today, and permitted to debate on the House floor."

—Mike Lillis and Erik Wasson contributed to this report.