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Analysis: JOBS Act Passes, But Paralysis Remains On Highways Bill

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David Hawkings, CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing

A bill to ease regulation of small businesses and startups is on its way back to the U.S. House after it cleared the Senate with some revisions yesterday. The JOBS Act passed on a 73-26 vote, but without the support several local lawmakers Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). Mikulski is urging the House to instead pass a Senate transportation bill, which she says is important for Maryland. 

David Hawkings, editor of the CQ Roll Call Daily Briefing, talks with WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about how the debate played out. Here are some highlights:

On why some Democratic lawmakers opposed the JOBS Act despite there being  bipartisan support in both chambers and from President Obama: "The opposition was mainly from more liberal, … investor-friendly lawmakers who said that the investor protections in this bill were not strong enough," Hawkings says, that in the rush to pass legislation, lawmakers were going to lower the regulatory barriers to new stock offerings that investors could get hurt." 

Why Mikulski is focusing instead on the transportation bill: "Her argument is if you want to create jobs, pass the transportation bill, which will more directly create jobs than the so-called JOBS Act," Hawkings says. In addition, "it would include her language that would allow more fed regulation of Metro systems, which is language she wrote after the 2009 metro crash" in D.C., Hawkings adds. 

On the breakdown over the highways portion of the bill: There has been a deepening and hardening standoff over what to do about the highway bill next," Hawkings says. "It comes down to … should they do something that lasts only two years and cots $100 billion, or try and do something that lasts 5 years and costs more than twice as much." 

The latest proposal from the House: "The House and Senate can't agree, and so now the House wants to extend the current law for 90 days, and many senators, including Senator Mikulski, say 'that's ridiculous, we've done that 9 times,'" Hawkings says. 

On whether they'll be able to work it out before the current bill expires March 31: "The conventional wisdom in our newsroom for years was, 'oh, they'll work it out like they always do,' but that seems to have changed in the last couple of years," Hawking says. "Last summer … there was the standoff over an aviation bill that actually resulted in the FAA partially shutting down and several thousand construction workers being furloughed. No one would have predicted that 10 years ago when Congress was a little more functional."

What will happen if the bill is allowed to lapse: "The dysfunction is such that it's theoretically possible that March 31, when the current highway spending law runs out of time, there could be a stoppage, which means no flow of federal money to construction projects already underway," Hawkings says. 

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