Sen. Chuck Hagel
Republican from Nebraska
Chair, International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee
A respected voice on foreign policy, Hagel is also a former entrepreneur--he co-founded a cell phone company in the mid-1980s. In 2005, he sponsored a bill that would allow interest on business checking accounts and co-sponsored another that would permit small employers to pool their employees for health insurance. Both bills are under debate. Most important, Hagel is a key proponent of initiatives that promote entrepreneurship as a solution to the decline of rural America. One bill he has authored would provide venture capital and investment tax credits for small-town businesses."He's part of the effort to wake up the federal government," says Billy Ray Hall, head of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center.
Sen. John Kerry
Democrat from Massachusetts
Ranking minority member, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee
Republicans pilloried Kerry as antibusiness during the 2004 campaign, but few senators have done as much to promote entrepreneurship. Back in 1985, he sought out a spot on the Small Business Committee--a low-profile post for an ambitious man. His signature initiative in recent years, the BRIDGE Act, would create tax breaks on small-business stock. The bill hasn't gone very far, largely because he is a member of the minority party. But in November the Senate did pass Kerry's plan to provide low-interest loans to drought-stricken small businesses. He has also hounded the SBA over procurement data that makes it seem as if the government is awarding more contracts to small businesses than it is. "John Kerry is the biggest friend small businesses have in Congress," says Lloyd Chapman, head of the nonpartisan American Small Business League.
Rep. Don Manzullo
Republican from Illinois
Chair, House Small Business Committee
Manzullo's manufacturing-centric district around Rockford, Ill., has been hit by downsizing and outsourcing, so he is attuned to the hardships faced by small industrial operations. In 2004, President Bush signed a law, co-authored by Manzullo, to extend lower corporate tax rates to small manufacturers registered as S corps, LLCs, or sole proprietorships. Manzullo has also worked to open defense procurement to companies that specialize in precision machining and micro machining. If U.S. manufacturers in these fields cannot survive, he argues, the military could lose its technological advantage over the armies of other nations. "Manzullo has been a champion in Washington on the dangers of completely exporting these types of capabilities, especially from a defense-readiness perspective," says Jeff Stewart, chairman of the Rockford Area Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. Olympia Snowe
Republican from Maine
Chair, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee
Snowe introduced a raft of small-business-related bills in 2005 on matters ranging from streamlining the SBA loan process to making it easier for small contractors in Iraq to get reimbursed for security costs. In June, a Government Accountability Office probe that she initiated found that contractors working with the Energy Department had overstated the amount of work they had subcontracted to small businesses. She capped off the year by shepherding through Congress a plan to expand the SBA's disaster loan program. The bill awaits President Bush's signature.