May 21, 2024
Some Republicans are cold toward the traditionally top business lobby over perceived 'wokeness.'

Some House Republicans and senators have adopted increasingly hostile postures toward the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, traditionally the nation’s premier business lobbying organization.

Corporate America has increasingly weighed in on issues including race, voting rights, and abortion, prompting some Republicans to seek to penalize corporations they call “woke.”

The Chamber is nonpartisan and has historically backed either Republicans or Democrats aligned with its policy goals. In the 2020 election cycle, that came out to 193 Republican candidates and 30 Democratic office-seekers. Though with that election giving Democrats control of the White House, Senate, and House, it’s not particularly surprising that the Chamber has since sought warmer relations with the party.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has reportedly indicated he would not meet with the group should he become speaker next year. Some House Republicans are even helping to launch an alternate business group, the American Free Enterprise Chamber of Commerce. An unnamed House Republican recently told the Intercept that the party plans to investigate the Chamber if it takes the majority.

But while some senators, such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), have recently spoken critically of the Chamber, Senate Republican leaders continue to embrace it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) addressed the Chamber earlier this month to a warm reception, Axios reported. The Chamber’s President and CEO Suzanne Clark praised McConnell at the event as a “partner and ally” to the business community. Clark called him “a staunch defender of the values we all share.”

A Chamber spokesman told the Washington Examiner: “While there are a few populist, anti-business voices on the right and socialist administrative state voices on the left, we believe that the vast majority of lawmakers, particularly in the Republican Party, share our view that the free enterprise system and pro-growth policies drive our economic growth and prosperity.”

The Chamber in the 2022 cycle has endorsed many Republican candidates, including Dr. Mehmet Oz for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat against his Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

And the Chamber and congressional Republicans have recently shared similar priorities, such as supporting the Tax and Jobs Act of 2017, enacted by then-President Donald Trump and a Republican Congress, and opposing President Joe Biden’s proposed Build Back Better spending plan in 2021, which later morphed into the smaller Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. That law incorporated some Build Back Better climate change, healthcare, and tax reform items but left out a swath of social spending proposals.

The Chamber also supported the bipartisan infrastructure law, also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed into law on Nov. 15, 2021. The bill provides for $1.2 trillion in spending, $550 billion of which would be new federal spending over five years, through late 2026.

But the hostility toward the Chamber from some House lawmakers is part of a wider trend of a populist faction of the GOP that is becoming less pro-business than the party has traditionally been.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, seen as a potential 2024 Republican presidential candidate, has been locked in a long-running feud with the Walt Disney Company, among the largest employers in the state. After Florida enacted a law called the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized it after internal pressure from employees. DeSantis later moved to strip Walt Disney World’s self-governing capabilities in the state in a move some saw as retaliatory, but what DeSantis argued was an appropriate use of government power.

Additionally, Conservative Political Action Coalition Chairman Matt Schlapp wrote to House Republicans that the conservative group would not endorse any candidate for a leadership race unless the person would “reprimand corporations that have gone woke.”

“Woke CEOs turned their backs on conservative leaders after the last election,” Schlapp wrote. “For the first time in almost 30 years, Republicans will achieve a majority largely without the support of Fortune 100 companies. Instead, conservatives will take control led by activists and entrepreneurs who are exhausted and offended by the radical left policies pushed by these publicly traded companies.”

Leave a Reply