WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama will speak to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 7, taking a message of greater American competitiveness to a major trade group that has been sharply critical of some of his domestic policies, the White House said.
The announcement comes amid the changing political terrain in Washington that has given more power to congressional Republicans, traditional allies of the business sector.
The White House said Obama is expected to use the speech to reiterate his call to make American industry more competitive internationally and to discuss cooperation in the creation of jobs.
Obama and the chamber have clashed over health care and climate-change policy. The chamber also spent more than $30 million in the midterm election against mostly Democratic congressional candidates.
The chamber, however, has supported some of the president’s economic policies, notably its 2009 economic stimulus and the administration’s bailout of the auto industry. Chamber President Thomas Donohue also worked with the administration to secure a new trade agreement with South Korea late last year.
Chamber officials have run into Republican opposition lately in their call for greater spending on public infrastructure projects to spur growth and create jobs — a step that the White House has supported.
Tom Collamore, a chamber senior vice president, said the group was eager to discuss jobs and the economy with the president.
“This remains the top priority of the chamber and the business community, and we’re committed to working together to put Americans back to work,” he said.
Since the midterm elections that gave Republicans control of the House of Representatives, Obama has redoubled his efforts to reach out to the private sector and mend fences. He met with 20 corporate CEOs last month in an attempt to find common ground while prodding them to shake loose untapped corporate cash and create more jobs.
The president also is considering naming William Daley, a former Commerce secretary with close ties to business, as his new chief of staff.
All those gestures have caused jitters among liberals, who see in the president’s outreach a move to the center and away from their priorities.