Landrieu to chair Senate small business committee

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) will be the new chairwoman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee in the next Congress, the senator and the committee have announced.

“I intend to use my gavel to ensure that [small businesses] play an active role in our nation’s economic recovery and that the federal government is a supportive and efficient partner in their success,” she said in a statement released Dec. 15.

Landrieu has introduced several bills to help small businesses, especially in the Gulf Coast region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. One bill would have turned places declared disaster areas into Historically Underutilized Business Zones. Businesses in such zones are given top preference for federal contract set-asides.

She also introduced a bill that would have allowed small businesses that were affected by the hurricanes to stay in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) set-aside program for two years longer than usual. Neither bill became law.

Landrieu is taking the place of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who will become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. While he was chairman of the small-business committee, Kerry traveled to Louisiana with Landrieu after the hurricanes.

“I saw firsthand her passion for helping small-business owners in her state and across the country,” he said.

However, Landrieu’s direction as the committee’s leader is difficult to determine, said Lloyd Chapman, president of the American Small Business League. Committee chairmen often take different paths than expected, he added.

Chapman said he was disappointed to learn that Kerry would not close loopholes that allow large companies to receive contracts set aside for small businesses.

For example, in 2006 and 2007, the Interior Department awarded more than $5.7 million in small-business contracts to large corporations, some of which are Fortune 500 companies, according to an inspector general's report from July.

“I am very hopeful that under [Landrieu’s] leadership, we will finally fill in existing loopholes in federal small-business contracting programs and get these funds going to the small businesses around the country that need them so desperately,” Chapman said.

Susan Eckerly, vice president for federal public policy at the National Federation of Independent Business, said she’s pleased with the choice of Landrieu as chairman. Eckerly said she hopes Landrieu will oppose the federal government’s practice of contract bundling, which can put small companies at a disadvantage.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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