Chamber takes victory lap, warns of Obama regulatory 'tide'

U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue took a short victory lap Wednesday, telling his board of directors he was “proud” of how midterm voters responded to the Chamber's election arguments. 

The Chamber pumped millions into midterm campaign ads critical of Democratic leadership in Washington and endorsed scores of House Republican candidates. Its decisions were vindicated when the GOP decisively won back the House majority, gaining 60 seats with several races outstanding. 

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“We spoke about the dangers of a bigger, more intrusive government, about the essential role of free enterprise to the American Dream and about the overriding challenge of creating 20 million jobs over the next 10 years,” Donohue said Wednesday. “The American people responded in a historic way.”

The Chamber’s efforts were aided by a Supreme Court decision lifting restrictions on what unions and corporations can spend on campaign ads. Democrats tried to move legislation in response to that decision that would have imposed new campaign finance rules, but that effort failed in the Senate.

The White House criticized spending by the Chamber and other outside groups, even suggesting in the final weeks of the campaign they might have been supported in part by foreign donors. The Chamber said those charges were unfounded, and Donohue vowed the business group would stay involved in politics. 

He said he was “proud” of how the Chamber “stood up to attacks by those who tried and failed to silence the voice of business.” He added that there are those in Washington who “probably wish that the Chamber would just go away, or at least quiet down."

“But we’re not going anywhere, except up,” he continued, promising that the Chamber would pursue “victories” for the business community. 

Though Donohue said the Chamber is now ready to work with the Obama administration and Congress, he said the business lobby believes the country is “at risk” and offered stinging criticism of regulations imposed by the Obama administration. 

“The biggest single threat to job creation facing us today is a regulatory tsunami of unprecedented force,” he said, offering the examples of the healthcare and financial regulatory overhauls that stand as the administration’s proudest achievements. 

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

He promised that the Chamber would add significant resources to its effort to stem the tide of regulations. 

“We cannot allow this nation to move from a government of the people to a government of regulators. And we’re going to be engaged in this fight for years to come,” he said. 

Donohue also called on Congress to extend all of the Bush tax cuts and expiring business provisions in the lame-duck session. Donohue did not specify whether the extension should be permanent or for a matter of years.