The Elections, a New Congress, and the Business Agenda

The bottom line for the business community on the 2006 elections is this: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to work with and support members of the new Congress from both sides of the aisle who favor pro-business legislation, and we remain optimistic about implementing our members' agenda.

There are two things I'd like you to know about the dramatic shift in power in Washington.

First, the Chamber worked extremely hard to elect pro-business candidates. In its scope, reach, and cost, our political program was our most expansive effort ever. We put 274 people on the ground, ran TV/radio spots in 35 races, distributed 13.5 million pieces of mail, placed 12.5 million phone calls, and sent more than 18.8 million e-mails. Working with our local chambers and Federation members, we held fundraisers, educated voters, and organized get-out-the-vote efforts.

The still incomplete returns indicate that 215 of the 277 Chamber-endorsed candidates were elected Tuesday, with a handful still undecided. We fared less well in our targeted races. So far, pro-business candidates have won 19 of the 35 House races and 4 of 12 in the Senate. A majority of pro-legal reform candidates won races in which the Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) worked to educate the public on the importance of issues such as enforcing the rule of law with integrity and impartiality.
Would we have liked better results? You bet! But this was a very difficult environment. This election didn't turn on business issues, but instead on the war in Iraq and congressional scandals. We don't measure success by the numbers--what counts is whether we are a force when the big decisions are made, and I guarantee we will be.

Second, the Chamber's agenda for the future doesn't change based on who controls Congress. We have very good relationships with moderate Democrats on the Hill. We supported more than a dozen of them in this election, contrary to our opponents' claims that we only support Republicans. We stand behind Democrats who have stuck out their necks for us at great political risk. This loyalty and commitment to principle has earned us great respect and credibility.

I also believe the American people continue to strongly support business priorities, especially legal reform. An election-day survey by Public Opinion Strategies conducted for ILR found that 76% of those polled want the new Congress to continue to reform the lawsuit system. Three-quarters of those who say they are strong Democrats regard frivolous lawsuits as a problem.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Politics comes before policy. We need good people in office to get good policies. We'll work hard to make sure that new members of Congress understand what's at stake for our economy and for the future. I'm optimistic about what we'll be able to accomplish in the next two years.