Bipartisanship Gone Bad at the Senate Committee on Small Business

By at 26 July, 2019, 3:26 pm

Small Business Insider

By Karen Kerrigan

The lead up to Congress’ traditional August recess was looking like it would end on a positive note for the small business community. The Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship was set to markup Chairman Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) bipartisan reauthorization of the Small Business Administration (SBA) following weeks of bipartisan work to comprehensively update and modernize the Small Business Act, something that has not been done for nearly 20 years.

Unfortunately, the positive momentum leading up to the markup came to a grinding halt, as Chairman Rubio announced an indefinite postponement as a result of Democrat opposition to common sense reforms that would give the small business community greater input into the federal regulatory process.

As Chairman Rubio noted in this July 26 Washington Examiner Op-ed about the postponement:

Unfortunately, Democrats on the committee said they could not support any bill that gave small businesses a voice in the regulatory process. Legislating requires compromise, and we made significant concessions to our Democratic colleagues on the regulatory side. But they insisted there could be absolutely no regulatory reforms.

My Republican colleagues and I would like to see significantly more regulatory reform. But in the spirit of compromise, my bill did not eliminate a single regulation. Instead, it would enact bipartisan reforms designed to give small businesses more notice and opportunities to comment on proposed regulations that would directly impact their bottom lines. 

The Democrats called these reforms as “a wish list from corporate interests who seek to stifle government regulations that protect our health and safety.”


That sounds like a talking point from the left-wing groups that can be regularly counted on to support the antiquated status quo and oppose any action to improve the unwieldy and complex federal regulatory system – even those that make it more friendly to small businesses. As pointed about by Chairman Rubio in his Op-ed, the bipartisan reforms included within the package do not eliminate any regulations, they merely advance smart changes that the small business community has requested for many years.

In his press release announcing postponement, Chairman Rubio noted that some of these reforms came at the request of Democrats:

“The Chairman’s Mark, which was scheduled to be marked up in committee today, contains dozens of important priorities from every senator and much-needed reforms to help America’s small businesses compete in the 21st century. Unfortunately, the minority is demanding we strip all references to regulatory reform — including reforms requested by their own members. Therefore, this bill will not be moving forward.”

SBE Council strongly supported the reauthorization package, and we are very disappointed by Democratic opposition to these improvements that would boost small business engagement and regulatory accountability and transparency. Listen to my Forbes Books Radio-SBE Council podcast interview about SBA reauthorization details with host Gregg Stebben here (or click on the image to the right), which covers the regulatory reform pieces in the bill.

In a letter to Chairman Rubio and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), I noted that the broader effort to reauthorize SBA was an opportunity to improve the relevancy and impact of its programs. For example, SBA’s export programs, the various lending programs, the Small Business Investment Companies (SBIC), Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs would be all reorganized and streamlined to align with 21st realities and the needs of small businesses.

In terms of the regulatory pieces in Title IX of the legislation, the letter highlighted the need to include “unambiguous language that will inform federal agencies about their responsibilities under the Regulatory Flexibility Act…It is critical that agencies across the federal government act consistently during the rulemaking process, as small businesses dominate almost every industry sector.”

The letter also pointed out that the Office of Advocacy – the small business watchdog within the federal government – has acted independently and effectively across Republican and Democrat Administrations alike. Therefore, “Modernizing its scope of work is a common-sense step that will make the Office – and by extension the federal government – more accountable to the small business community.”

The letter lays out the specifics of how the Office would be reformed, as well as other process changes to ensure small businesses are treated equitably by the federal government and that their voice is being heard.

All Senators serving on this committee should be for protecting startups and small businesses from inappropriate and excessive regulation. That is what they always claim to be for when they are back home with constituents or out on the campaign trail during the election season. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be very disappointed to learn that some members on this Committee, whose purpose it is to support the small business community, actually favor stripping these small steps to help small businesses.

Let’s hope they reconsider their opposition to small-business friendly regulatory reform.

Related content:

SBA Reauthorization and Modernization is an Opportunity to Improve Program Relevance and Protect Small Biz From Extreme Regulation, SBE Council press release, July 24.

Empowering America’s Small Businesses to Confront China, Real Clear Politics Op-ed, Senator Marco Rubio, July 23.

Karen Kerrigan is president & CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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