Democrats took control  of both the Senate and House small-business committees for the first time in more than a decade on Thursday, as the 110th Congress convened.

Sen. John Kerry  (D-Mass.), now chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, has pledged to strengthen federal loan programs for small-business owners, many of which have been cut back by the Small Business Administration in recent years.

Kerry, who previously led the committee from 2001 to 2002 and has been a member for 21 years, has said he will "look beyond the SBA for ways to foster the entrepreneurial spirit and assist small businesses across America."

Rep. Nydia Velazquez  (D-N.Y.) was appointed chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, becoming the first-ever Hispanic woman to a chair a full congressional committee. She has been the ranking minority member on the committee since 1998 and a vocal opponent of miscoded federal small-business contracts  awarded to large corporations, among other issues.

Since her nomination, Velazquez has pressed the need to reduce regulatory and tax burdens on small businesses, while seeking relief for rising energy and health-care costs.