Chamber of Commerce CEO declares war on Obama regulatory regime

Jon Ward Contributor
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The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued a loud and fiery challenge Wednesday to President Obama and the Washington bureaucracy, vowing to ramp up the organization’s fight against excessive regulation and “government harassment” of business’ ability to participate in the political system.

“There are those in this town who probably wish that the Chamber would just go away, or at least quiet down. But we’re not going anywhere, except up,” said Tom Donohue, the Chamber’s president and CEO.

Donohue, speaking to about 200 business leaders at the Chamber’s downtown headquarters a block from the White House, was defiant in laying out the group’s agenda for the next two years.

He announced that the Chamber will create a new group to fight what he called “a regulatory tsunami” coming out of the Obama administration, primarily through the new health-care law, the financial regulation bill, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Labor Department and the National Labor Relations Board.

He cited close to 200 proposed rules from the EPA, 100 regulations and policy chances from Labor and NRLB, 183 new agencies, commissions and panels in the health-care law, and 540 required or suggest rulemakings and 170 reports in the financial regulation bill.

“We have never seen anything of this scale before. It defies all logic and common sense,” Donohue said.

The business community has said for much of the past year that the massive amount of regulation coming out of Washington is the chief source of the slow economic recovery in the U.S., and the main reason that there is roughly $2 trillion in capital sitting on the sidelines instead of being used to expand and create jobs.

Liberals are calling on Obama to act unilaterally through federal agencies and executive order powers.

“One of the best ways for the Obama administration to achieve results … in the short term, is through substantial executive authority to make and implement policy,” said John Podesta, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank in Washington.

Donohue announced that the Chamber will stand up a new group to “continually tell the American people, the Congress of the United States – the media and everybody will listen – the story about what this regulatory tsunami means.”

“It is a tax on the American people, it is a tax on American jobs, and it is a tax on our personal and economic freedom,” he said.

Donohue also said the Chamber will “lead the fight” against the campaign by Obama to increase the disclosure of donors to groups like the Chamber. Obama and Democrats made campaign finance and donor disclosure their main point of attack against Republican and conservative groups in the closing weeks before the midterm elections.

A longstanding policy of the Chamber’s – it does not run political TV ads in presidential elections – will allow Donohue to position the group advantageously over the next two years in the campaign finance debate.

“The Chamber has not, does not and will not participate in presidential politics,” Donohue told reporters after his speech.

But the Chamber is clearly going to devote much of its energy over the next year or two to fighting the White House on the front where Obama is most able to implement his agenda, especially since Republicans now control the House and have reduced the Democrats’ majority in the Senate.

Donohue, asked about the Chamber’s often combative relationship with Obama, said it was “sort of overblown.”

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