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Eric Cantor’s Jobs Bill Broadens Approach

Top Democrats have been slamming House Republicans for months for not putting forward a comprehensive economic proposal, but House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is now proposing a jobs package that they could find difficult to oppose.

The reason? They’ve already voted for most of it.

The Virginia Republican is unveiling the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act today with AOL co-founder Steve Case.

The legislation includes bills that passed the House by wide majorities in November and other provisions reported out of the Financial Services Committee. For instance, the entire Democratic leadership team voted for H.R. 2940, H.R. 2930 and H.R. 1070, all of which are included in the bill.

The approach follows Cantor’s view that while the parties are deadlocked on issues such as taxes, there are still areas of agreement where progress can be made.

But Cantor’s measure is irking some colleagues because it puts a Republican’s name on what was a Democrat’s bill.

Cantor’s bill includes legislation introduced last week by Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), but that bill bears a remarkable similarity to legislation by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) that the House passed 420-2 in November.

Both bills contain identical provisions to increase the number of shareholders that a community bank can have before being required to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission — the core of the bill. But Quayle’s bill does not require a study of the subject.

Democrats privately mocked Cantor for “stealing” a bill introduced by Democrats and already passed by the House and noted the JOBS Act includes two provisions introduced by Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.). Quayle and Schweikert are facing off against each other in a primary fight.

Himes laughed it off. “I guess imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” he said.

Cantor spokeswoman Laena Fallon said the Quayle bill was chosen for its bipartisan Senate support. A nearly identical bill in the Senate that also does not require a study was introduced by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). That bill has 13 co-sponsors, including three Democrats.

“That sounds like a nice excuse to paper over some Republican internal politics,” Himes said. “Presumably the bill would be subject to conference, and at the end of the day, nobody is going to get terribly hung up over a study.”

Still, he said that even if his name isn’t on the provision, he’s happy to see it included. And while remaining suspicious of whether Cantor included any poison pills hidden in the bill text, Himes said, “I’m hopeful it’s something we can call get behind.”

Despite the authorship battle, Democrats concede that House votes demonstrate broad support for the legislation and that Cantor’s press conference with Case is a publicity coup.

“Having Steve Case gives Cantor instant credibility on jobs,” one Democratic strategist said. “But he won’t have credibility on the politics until he has [Democratic leaders] standing with him.”

The source suggested Cantor’s bill is a shift in approach. “You think he’s reading the polling that shows the GOP losing altitude on the economy?”

A Democratic House leadership aide predicted the past bipartisan support for parts of the bills means it won’t attract “huge opposition” from Democrats, but the aide questioned why those parts need to be in the package since they’ve already passed the House.

“Yes, the component pieces have bipartisan support, and we’ll need to see the final bill that’s put forward, but [I] wouldn’t expect huge opposition,” the source said. Noting that three of the provisions had already passed the House, the aide said, “it seems like we’re wasting time repassing bills that have already passed.”

In past months, Republicans have pointed to several jobs bills that the House has passed that have stalled in the Senate. In response, Democrats have argued the GOP has not provided a comprehensive proposal to deal with the economy.

“Republicans still do not have a comprehensive jobs plan,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in January. “Instead of debating and voting on jobs bills like House Democrats’ Make It In America plan, the House Republican leadership walked away from the American people and focused on an ideological and partisan agenda that had nothing to do with getting Americans back to work.”

Cantor’s package would seem, on its face, to address the charge, simply because it includes a series of provisions rather than broaching a single topic.

But Democrats vigorously objected to calling the package “comprehensive.”

A second House Democratic leadership aide asked, “How can you call it ‘comprehensive’ if they’re taking three bills that have already passed the House and putting them together and giving it a new name?”

“While pieces do have Democratic support, that doesn’t make this a comprehensive jobs package. Just saying it doesn’t make it so,” the first aide said.

Meanwhile, a Senate Democratic leadership aide said the Senate intends to take up similar measures “in the coming weeks and months.”

The aide said that the Senate will pass its own versions and that Senate Democrats “hope to work House Republicans to get the bills signed into law.”

“We have been planning to do this all along,” the aide said.

Details of the Senate measures are still being determined but will draw from some of the proposals put forward by House Republicans, including allowing small businesses to receive a 20 percent tax deduction, as well as other capital formation initiatives.

Humberto Sanchez contributed to this report.

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