Linda McMahon, President Donald Trump’s nominee to head the Small Business Administration, took the floor Tuesday morning to answer questions from the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee for her confirmation hearing.
The 68-year-old co-founder and former CEO of the World Wrestling Foundation faced a more friendly hearing than other Trump nominees, opening with two Democrats endorsing McMahon’s experience and qualifications for the role of SBA Administrator.
When asked by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) whether regulations were a hinderance to small businesses, McMahon didn’t spell out any specific regulations that she would look to target for review, but she did agree that over-regulation is a complaint she hears often from small business owners.
“I think we forget sometimes, especially in mom and pop shops, that they’re the CEO, the CFO, they’re the janitor and every other thing,” McMahon said. She went on to say that complex regulations can prove burdensome for these kinds of businesses and she would look to simplify regulations.
On SBA Loan Fee Waivers
Under the Obama administration, some servicing fees were waived for SBA 7(a) loans, including servicing fees for loans under $150,000 made in 2014-2016. McMahon was hesitant to commit to continuing those fee waivers, saying she’d evaluate the efficacy of that policy before making a decision.
“I’d like to make sure we’re making it as easy as possible to get these loans and to help our small businesses. I’d like to take a really strong look at ‘what did we accomplish by that?’, ‘how long was it in effect?’, ‘did we get feedback from small businesses that this was beneficial?'”
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On Small Business Taxes
Sen. Paul also probed McMahon on whether small businesses are overtaxed and if the tax structure is an impediment to small business growth, specifically citing LLCs who may pay upwards of 40% of their business income to taxes. Though the SBA does not determine tax policy directly, it’s a big concern for small businesses and tax code reform has been a top agenda item for the Trump administration.
“I do think that if we’re involved in tax reform, we do need to consider how to make it a level playing field for those pass-through companies.”
On Fairness in Government Contracts
A main focus of the committee’s questions dealt with helping small businesses get a bigger piece of the pie when it comes to government contracts. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) specifically cited challenges in using government websites and tools that list opportunities for small businesses to bid for those contracts.
The practice of bundling government contracts into major projects and how that impacts the ability (or inability) of small businesses to apply for projects funded by other federal agencies was also raised. McMahon argued that the act of bundling “obfuscates” the purpose of those projects and she’d like to work with other agency heads to ensure small businesses are getting a fair bite at the apple.
“I’d like to peel back some of that bundling,” McMahon said.
On Young Entrepreneurs
McMahon pointed to the lack of financial literacy in schools and colleges as an impediment to small business success for young entrepreneurs, noting that some high school students in the country don’t even know how to balance a checkbook.
“I think there’s a discipline that needs to be shown more to our young entrepreneurs,” McMahon said. “We need to have that fundamental understanding of the basics of economics as we move forward to develop that next generation of business people.”
On How She’ll Work With the Senate Committee
Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) asked McMahon about her reports to the committee and how she plans to streamline and find efficiencies within the SBA.
“I’m going to be drinking from the firehose for a while,” McMahon said. But she promised to get back to the committee with findings as close to the 180-day timeframe as Sen. Young proposed.
On Climate Change & Its Impact on Small Business
Natural disasters and their impact on businesses’ ability to rebuild and recover came up several times throughout the hearing. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked McMahon how she plans to help small business who are being impacted by climate change, citing the example of fisheries in his constituency that are dealing with warming waters and their impact on where species like Cod are migrating. While McMahon didn’t commit to any specific action plan for confronting the issue, she noted that it was important in her role to look at the issue closely.
“Those are very real statistics that I want to learn more about and, not only as it relates to Massachusetts, but where else in our country that small business can be affected and we can take a more active role,” McMahon said.
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