The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Monday likened Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenators introduce bill to overhaul sexual harassment policy Greatest risk to the Republican majority? Rising interest rates GOP Senate primary heats up in Montana MORE (R-Texas) to a tennis player, questioning whether the GOP firebrand has the necessary political agility to keep charging the net.

Cruz has come under fire from fellow congressional Republicans for his refusal to drop efforts to delay or dial back the president’s landmark healthcare law as part of a budget deal. The president of Washington’s largest business lobby appeared to sympathize with the frustration.

“I sort of think about him as a tennis player,” Tom Donohue told reporters Monday.

“You know, if your going to rush the net all the time, you better have a lot of motion to the left and the right, and he hasn’t proved that to me yet,” Donohue said, stressing that he wanted to work with the freshman senator.

(CREDIT: Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor)

Asked whether the business community wouldn’t rather Cruz keep his mouth shut, Donohue said, “that might be one thing we could work on.”

The quip was part of wide-ranging remarks Donohue gave during a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

Donohue laid out the Chamber’s post-shutdown priorities, which include tackling entitlement reform, fighting components of the Obama administration’s climate initiative and passing a sweeping immigration reform bill.

He said the latter effort, which enjoys support from both business groups and labor, presents an opportunity for Washington to move past the ugliness of the budget impasse that took hundreds of thousands of federal workers off the job and shone a light on Congress’s dysfunction. 

“There’s still an appetite to get comprehensive immigration reform done this year,” he said. “We’re really hot after it.”

Donohue was noncommittal about the Chamber’s plans for the 2014 midterm elections, when scores of Tea Party congressional incumbents could face challenges from fellow Republicans more aligned with the party establishment.

Still, he said, “you can be sure that we’ll be very vigorous in the House.”

Donohue said there are plenty of opportunities for conservatives to change the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. But efforts to do away with the bill entirely would not succeed, he said.

He repeatedly urged Congress to reform entitlements as part of ongoing budget talks, warning that federal government outlays would increase by $2.5 trillion over the next decade if reform is not achieved.

“Who knows if these talks will succeed,” he questioned. “But they damn well better.”