It’s unusual when the Senate passes one bill in a single day, but today they’ve passed two. And both are an indication of the seriousness of legislating in the modern age.
First, we have the JOBS Act, a bill that promises an impossible solution to an unrelated problem, which is a mask for its true agenda, to weaken investor protection rules to the benefit of Wall Street firms and corporations. If there’s an actual policy rationale for this deregulation I’ve yet to see it. That didn’t stop 73 Senators from voting to pass it today, after 300-plus members of the House voted for it previously.
Harry Reid seemed so embarrassed by this passage that he spent his entire statement on the bill talking about the unrelated transportation bill, which is headed toward a showdown:
Passing this small business bill is a small step towards creating jobs, but now it’s time for House Republicans to take the much more important step of passing the Senate’s bipartisan transportation jobs bill, which nearly three million hard-working Americans rely on for their paychecks. This is not hard – there is a bipartisan bill on the table, all House Republican leaders have to do is bring it to the floor and let it pass with bipartisan support, instead of letting the Tea Party force yet another fight where there does not have to be one.
There is one catch. Thanks to some procedural legerdemain, Democrats in the Senate were able to get post-cloture votes on two amendments that would restore at least some investor protections. Because they were happening post-cloture, the amendments would require only a majority vote to pass. Jack Reed’s amendment on increasing the threshold for disclosure exemptions shamefully failed on a voice vote, as cowardly Senators didn’t want to associate themselves with rejecting such destruction of simple disclosure for investors. The other amendment, however, which set regulations on crowdfunding, the ability for firms to raise capital in small dollars on the Internet, did pass. That means that the Senate version of the JOBS Act which passed differs from the House version, and so the House could either accept the Senate bill or move to a conference committee.
The way this has generally worked in this Congress is that the Senate, for some reason, accepts the House version. This is a change from the last Congress, where the Senate’s filibuster rules were seen as a reason for the House to have to take whatever the Senate would give them. Now the roles have been reversed. For example, the Senate also took up the STOCK Act today. They had previously passed a version and so did the House, but the House version eliminated two key provisions. One responded to a Supreme Court ruling and would allow prosecutions on “honest services fraud” to resume. The other would force “political intelligence” analysts, people paid to hang around Congress and find out information on upcoming legislation to report back to hedge funds, to register like other lobbyists. So the House and Senate versions were different. But instead of a conference committee, the Senate, reflecting a pattern, decided to just pass the House bill. And because the STOCK Act, the main thrust of which bans insider trading by members of Congress and their staffs, is broadly popular, that passed 96-3.
So what’s the common thread here? The JOBS Act, which does absolutely nothing but deregulate Wall Street, passes with one minor regulatory inclusion. The STOCK Act passes, but without two key provisions that have impact on… Wall Street. When Dick Durbin said that the banks “own the place,” you didn’t think that somehow stopped applying, did you?
UPDATE: Obviously Eric Cantor isn’t too concerned about the crowdfunding regulations, because he vowed to schedule a vote on the Senate-amended bill “early next week.” So this thing is going to pass. Return of the penny stock scams, here we come!