Byline: Sean Lengell, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In a rare burst of activity, the Senate broke through its gridlock rut Thursday and passed two bipartisan measures aimed at cutting red tape for small businesses and explicitly banning insider stock trading for members of Congress.
The Democrat-controlled Senate voted 73-26 to pass the House Republicans' Jobs Act, which is designed to give small businesses better access to capital by easing some Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
Immediately afterward, the Senate, in an unusual move, passed by a verbal unanimous consent a bill that prohibits members of Congress and other federal workers from profiting from information learned on the job. The measure now goes to President Obama, who is expected to sign it into law.
This is a big day in the United States Senate, said Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Republican. We're delighted to actually be able to say the Senate is functioning effectively in a bipartisan way.
The Senate approved one amendment to the small-business package to increase investor protections, so the measure - which easily passed the House earlier this month - must go back to the lower chamber for final approval. But the bill is expected to quickly clear Congress and be sent to the president, who supports it.
The House jobs package includes six bills, three of which previously passed the chamber with wide bipartisan support but stalled in the Senate. A centerpiece is a measure that would make it easier for small businesses to go public, which passed the House in November by a 421-1 vote.
The Senate action on the Jobs Act is a victory for House Republican leaders, who crafted the measure to rebut Mr. Obama's claims their party hasn't done enough to help small businesses and entrepreneurs.
But Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who joined 25 Democrats to oppose the package, said the bill's provisions to streamline regulations instead would lead to greater investor fraud.
At best, this bill could make it easier for con artists to defraud seniors out of their entire life savings by convincing them to invest in worthless …