Nikki Haley loved the MAGA glow whereas avoiding Trump’s brash model of politics. But within the aftermath of the Capitol rebel, that place is changing into much less and fewer tenable.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell advised POLITICO final yr that he thought the Chamber was “so confused about what they’re about that they most likely do not make a lot distinction.”
Josh Holmes, McConnell’s former chief of workers and a detailed ally, known as a few of the Chamber’s latest positions “totally unmoored to any sort of advocacy for business whatsoever.”
The Tanden endorsement, he stated, “is particularly mysterious to me, because she has personally participated in multiple efforts during the Obama years to basically destroy Tom Donohue, and the U.S. Chamber for opposing Obamacare, and for opposing them in elections in 2014 and 2012.”
The Chamber insists it’s taking the identical strategy to the Biden administration that it did with the Trump administration: working with them on the problems of settlement and preventing on areas the place they don’t. The group has by no means pledged to help Republicans, stated Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s government vice chairman and chief coverage officer.
“Some people may have assumed that somehow the Chamber was an arm of a political party,” Bradley stated in an interview. “They were wrong in that assumption.”
He noticed nothing uncommon within the Chamber’s endorsement of Tanden, noting that former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who ran OMB throughout George W. Bush’s administration, backed Tanden as properly.
“The Chamber’s consistent in believing that people who have basic qualifications should be confirmed and that we should have deference to the elected policymakers,” Bradley stated.
The Chamber hasn’t embraced all of Biden’s agenda. The commerce group criticized his choice to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline and to “pause” new oil and fuel leases on federal lands and in federal waters for 60 days. Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s outgoing chief government, additionally pushed again towards Biden’s proposal to lift the federal minimal wage to $15 an hour throughout an Oval Office assembly with the president and different executives on Tuesday.
But Suzanne Clark, whom the Chamber introduced this week could be its subsequent chief government, advised CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday that whereas “$15 doesn’t seem like the right number, it’s possible the minimum wage needs to be increased.”
While the Chamber had endorsed doubtlessly elevating the minimal wage in 2019, the stakes are increased now that Democrats management Congress and the White House. And some Republicans really feel the Chamber is being extra deferential to Biden than to earlier Democratic presidents — a sentiment shared, with delight, by senior officers within the present administration who’ve used the Chamber’s backing of the Covid aid invoice to promote it publicly.
“Traditionally the Chamber has been the tip of the spear on fighting back against liberal policies” beneath Democratic presidents, one former Chamber official stated.
The Chamber’s willingness to work with Biden follows an usually rocky relationship with Trump. It championed Trump’s tax cuts and deregulation, however recoiled on the president’s protectionist instincts and his castigation of tech corporations. The Chamber additionally joined with the National Association of Manufacturers and different commerce teams to sue the Trump administration over its government orders on immigration and bashed Trump’s strikes on drug pricing.
After Trump supporters broke into the Capitol final month, Donohue pointedly didn’t attempt to dissuade Vice President Mike Pence and the Cabinet from invoking the twenty fifth Amendment or Congress from impeaching Trump, saying in a press release that “we trust them to use those tools judiciously, if needed, to ensure our nation’s well-being and security.”
The Chamber has additionally stated it’s reviewing the actions of lawmakers who backed the Jan. 6 election problem and that a few of them “by their actions will have forfeited” its help. The assessment is ongoing.
Trump “was destabilizing and President Obama and Vice President Biden probably look a lot better in the rearview mirror after four years of chaos,” stated Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to President Barack Obama who led a extremely public marketing campaign towards the Chamber early within the Obama years earlier than settling right into a extra productive relationship with Donohue.
The Chamber’s strikes in the course of the Biden period have grow to be the discuss of Okay Street, the place Republican-leaning operatives query how lengthy member organizations will proceed to help its mission and the way a lot political energy it nonetheless maintains. The Chamber spent extra on lobbying than every other commerce group final yr. But it hasn’t spent as a lot on TV advertisements backing candidates because it as soon as did.
The Chamber shelled out $35.7 million on elections in the course of the 2012 cycle and $29.1 million within the 2016 cycle, based on the Center for Responsive Politics, however spent solely $5.7 million within the 2020 cycle.
While many elements fueled the decline in spending, Bradley stated one in every of them was the rise of tremendous PACs intently aligned with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, McConnell and McCarthy as alternate options for rich donors.
“That dynamic is certainly a change from a decade ago,” he stated.
A Republican strategist echoed that evaluation, calling the Chamber’s evolving standing the results of “a fundamental shift” in nationwide political spending, pointing particularly to the Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with McConnell.
“I know Republicans, my friends are going to be angry about what they’re doing,” the strategist stated. But the Chamber “is no longer the vehicle anymore of the Republican Senate political organization — SLF is — so they need to realign themselves around” capitalist-minded values, somewhat than one political occasion.
The Chamber is making an attempt to make use of its still-substantial clout to press the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress to work extra intently with Republicans on priorities such because the Covid aid invoice. While Ron Klain, the White House chief of workers, has touted polls displaying most Americans help many points of Biden’s plan, Bradley stated focusing “on whether one or more Republicans supports it or what polls say is a misreading of what we need to do to get Washington functioning.”
Bipartisanship, nevertheless, just isn’t a preferred strategy inside both occasion proper now. And whereas the enterprise foyer has ruffled feathers on the suitable, it hasn’t precisely been welcomed with open arms by Democrats, who nonetheless recoil on the Chambers efforts to defeat Obamacare and monetary regulatory reform.
They’re “in no man’s land,” stated John Feehery, a longtime Republican lobbyist. “That’s the problem with what the Chamber’s been doing, is they’ve alienated all the Republicans,” he added. “And so, you know, it’s not like they’re gonna go to the Republican conference and say, ‘Hey, you got to vote for this,’ Republicans are going to go say, ‘Go f— yourself.’”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a New Jersey Democrat who final yr obtained an inaugural award for bipartisanship from the Chamber, stated he believed the Chamber had “made a strategic decision to shift,” however that it will take “time to build those relationships [with Democrats] and build that level of trust.”
Gottheimer added that he has a “strong and constructive relationship with the group, and encouraged fellow Democrats to engage with them, but said he understood why some of his colleagues might take a “trust but verify” strategy.
Lisa Gilbert, government vice chairman of the ethics watchdog group Public Citizen which, paradoxically sufficient, teamed up with Tanden up to now to criticize the Chamber and Donohue particularly, stated she isn’t completely satisfied by the Chamber’s transfer to the center.
“I don’t necessarily think it changes their policy stances. It just shows that they are savvy enough to understand that supporting only one party will not work in the new environment,” she stated, including that she fears the Chamber’s strikes will wrongly, in her view, ingratiate the Chamber amongst Democrats.
Operatives from each events have been break up about simply how a lot clout the Chamber can have as a extra centrist participant.
“How do you be an effective presence in Washington, D.C. when you manage to alienate absolutely everybody?” one other Republican strategist mused. “I’m not sure that you do.”
The strategist additionally famous that one other Washington enterprise group, the Business Roundtable, already occupies a center lane.
Matt Haller, a former Chamber staffer who’s now the International Franchise Association’s high lobbyist, rejected such pessimism in regards to the Chamber of Commerce’s shift.
“There will always be a middle” amongst members of Congress, Haller stated.
“There’s always going to be, in my mind, a place for the Chamber to try to bring people together on issues.”
Sam Stein contributed to this report.