JOBS Act Passes House With Bipartisan Support

The House overwhelmingly passed a package of bills pushed by Republican leaders that were designed to make it easier for businesses to raise money to expand. President Obama supports the proposal, but Congressional Democrats have seemed on the outs in the cooperation between the White House and GOP.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel. Tomorrow, the Labor Department releases its unemployment figures for the month of February, and analysts are expecting good news. Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, Congress is looking to get in on the action with a JOBS bill. In a rare show of bipartisan agreement, today the Republican-led House approved a bill that is backed by President Obama.

But, as NPR's Sonari Glinton reports, today's vote may be followed by a less friendly debate.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: It's called the Jumpstart Our Business Act, or the JOBS Act. It's meant to spur small business growth. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says the bill was, in this climate, inspired by what's become an unusual source: the president of the United States.

REPRESENTATIVE ERIC CANTOR: The president asked us in his State of the Union address to send a bill that helps business startups, and the JOBS Act does just that.

GLINTON: And with support from the president and push by House Republicans, the JOBS Act passed with a whopping majority. It was about as bipartisan as it gets: 390-23.

CANTOR: I think what it demonstrates is that we are able to set aside our differences when we want to and come together for producing results that people want to see.

GLINTON: The JOBS Act, in many ways, has been supported already. It's a series of proposals that have been voted on in the past. They streamline regulations, make it easier for startups to raise money, and less expensive for them to go public. While Republicans were talking up bipartisanship, Democrats weren't exactly ready to bust out the guitars and start singing "Kumbayah" around the congressional campfire.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was decidedly underwhelmed by the JOBS Act and its bipartisan nature. She mocked it by calling it a jobs bill-lite.

REPRESENTATIVE NANCY PELOSI: Because it's so meager. You know, trumpet: (Singing) ta-ta-ta-tah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PELOSI: Here comes the little king. This...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GLINTON: Pelosi points out that several of the measures in the JOBS Act have passed in the House already.

PELOSI: OK, already. We've done it. It's good. Let's do it again, but let's not mistake it for what we need to do for a real, serious comprehensive jobs bill for our country.

GLINTON: With congressional approval ratings at historic lows, House Republican leaders - in the last month or so, especially - have been keen to point out accomplishments. Last month's extension of the payroll tax cut is an example. Again, Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

CANTOR: Congressional performance in producing results has been brought into question. And what we're trying to do is to regain the confidence of the people that sent us here. And by having a win like this, I think we can demonstrate that we really can work together.

GLINTON: Senate Democrats plan to bring up their own version of the JOBS bill next week, but there's another bill that Democrats want to see passed very much. That's a highway bill. When talking about the JOBS Act, every Democrat pivots to say the JOBS bill is good, but they want a highway bill. Here's Senate Democrat Dick Durbin of Illinois.

SENATOR DICK DURBIN: Not to take anything away from the House JOBS bill - it's a good bill - encouraging small business to small business formation is something we need to do in this country. But when it comes to job creation, there is absolutely no comparison.

GLINTON: No comparison. While the JOBS bill was relatively easy to pass, some House Republicans have been wary of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on a highway bill. Still, House Republican leaders say they're going to look at the Senate highway bill and see how far the bipartisan spirit can go. Sonari Glinton, NPR News, the Capitol.

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