WASHINGTON _ President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill aimed at giving small businesses more access to capital, touting the measure as a step toward job creation and a sign of hope for bipartisan cooperation in Washington.
"I've always said that the true engine of job creation in this country is the private sector, not the government," Obama said as he signed the bill Thursday. "For startups and small businesses, this bill is a potential game changer."
Obama signed the JOBS Act, the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, in a Rose Garden ceremony as House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., a vocal critic of the president, looked on. The measure was only a small portion of the larger jobs bill Obama pushed last year.
Still, the president sought to draw attention to the bill and the image of cooperation in a town that is sharply divided along party lines and moving no closer together in an election year. As both Cantor and Obama said they hoped the agreement on this measure would signal more to come, many in Washington suspect the JOBS Act may be the last _ and the only_bill aimed at boosting the economy to pass the divided Congress this year.
Not all were so enthusiastic about its effect. Consumer advocates have warned that the new law could undermine regulatory oversight of stock offerings to private investors, particularly in the emerging practice of soliciting investors online.
In his remarks Thursday, Obama tried to address such concerns by saying his administration would be closely monitoring the law and he told lawmakers that the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates the offerings, should be "properly funded."
Cantor dismissed such concerns, telling reporters after the ceremony that the measure is a "straight up solutions-oriented bill" that strikes the "proper balance" between regulation and the small business' efforts to raise money.
The bill is not expected to result in immediate new hires, making its effect on the still-sluggish economy hard to gauge. The law won't fully take effect until after the SEC drafts new rules, a process that is expected to stretch into next year.
As Cantor left the White House, he made a pitch for his Small Business Tax Cut bill, which he said the House would take up after it returns from recess later this month. Cantor said the measure would create jobs by allowing business owners to keep more of their money, which they would use to hire more workers.
But even before he made the pitch, a group of Senate Democrats told reporters they opposed the bill.