Dems plan attack over GOP meeting with business leaders

Congressional Democrats believe the House GOP plan to meet with business and trade lobbyists in the Capitol this week has provided them with yet another opening to attack Republicans for cozying up to big business.

The GOP plan calls for top officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Federation of Independent Business, the National Association of Homebuilders and the National Association of Manufacturers to gather with leading House Republicans in the Capitol to help the GOP craft part of its America Speaking Out policy agenda.

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House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), the Republican tasked with forming the jobs portion of the GOP agenda document, are among those scheduled to attend the meeting.

After reports of the business and trade group meeting surfaced, Democrats went on the attack — in a release, the DNC chided Republicans for holding a “Lobbyists Speaking Out” forum.

Republicans appeared to buckle somewhat from the latest round of pressure. Shortly after news first broke of their initiative, GOP leaders announced plans to livestream the meeting, rather than hold it behind closed doors.

In recent months, Democrats have been relentless in their attacks on Republicans for coordinating their efforts — political and policy — with business leaders.

The attacks began in earnest after a February Wall Street Journal story placed Boehner at a private dinner with a top Wall Street executive to discuss a return to days when Wall Street donated primarily to Republicans.

According to the Journal, Boehner told James Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, that Republicans had stood up to President Barack Obama’s attempts to rein in the financial industry, and expressed disappointment that Wall Street continued to donate money to Democratic campaigns.

After the article was published, Democratic aides immediately circulated a barrage of press releases about Boehner’s reported meeting. One Democratic leadership aide acknowledged at the time that the Journal story provided Democrats the perfect ammunition to begin a counter-assault on Republicans.

That counter-assault has since become one of the key pillars of the majority’s communication efforts going into the pivotal midterm elections in November.

“So again, we want to rein in the health insurance industry, Republicans say ‘no,’ ” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said just before the July Fourth recess, repeating what’s become a popular Democratic talking point. “We want to rein in Big Oil. Republicans say ‘no.’ We want to rein in those who are reckless on Wall Street. Republicans say ‘no.’ 

“We are here for Main Street. They are here for Wall Street. We are here for the people’s interests. They are here for the special interests. That is the fight we have here every day. We hope we can find common ground. We seek that, but if we can’t, we must go forward on behalf of the American people.”

It has only been in recent weeks that Republicans have begun to fight back with just as much force and vitriol.

Although top Republicans, including Boehner and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), were furious when Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) apologized to BP CEO Tony Hayward, Boehner hasn’t taken much other criticism lying down.

Instead of apologizing or backtracking from his comparison of the financial regulatory reform bill to “killing an ant with a nuclear weapon,” Boehner dug in.

On Thursday, Boehner again defended himself from another chiding from Obama, who responded to a lackluster jobs report in part by calling out Republicans for blocking his economic agenda.

“On President Obama’s watch, more than three million Americans have lost their jobs and unemployment is near 10 percent,” Boehner said in a statement. “The American people continue to ask, where are the jobs? But the President keeps whining and indulging in childish partisan attacks. How out of touch can he get?”