Chamber boss rips debt threats from Heritage Foundation, GOP conservatives

The head of the Chamber of Commerce on Friday blasted the Heritage Foundation and Republican conservatives for making threats over the debt ceiling.

Chamber President Tom Donohue, who supports cutting entitlements and repealing ObamaCare, said conservatives were being irresponsible. He made the comments in a C-SPAN "Newsmakers" interview to be aired on Sunday. 

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The comments come as House GOP leaders are contending with a Heritage-led movement to demand a defunding of ObamaCare in exchange for keeping the government open after Oct. 1. Similar threats are being voiced regarding the need to raise the nation’s $16.7 trillion borrowing limit later in the month. 

“It is insane not to raise the debt ceiling,” Donohue said. “I know there are a lot of people, new people in the House and some of the guys in Heritage and other places talking about how we should burn down the House to build a new one….we’ll that is just fine if you knew what you were talking about but you don’t.”

Donohue said that he thinks when all the posturing is over, both sides will be able to find some deal that cuts some spending. But he said threats are not the best course of action for business.

“I think some of the people on the far right of the Republican Party have created an agenda that is detrimental to others in the Republican Party who are trying to make this economy stronger and trying to help the business community try and get economic growth up over 3 to 3.5 percent,” he said. 

Donohue signaled some openness to small amounts of tax increases on the wealthy in exchange for giant cuts to spending on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security in the coming years. 

“You can always raise taxes on the rich … can you get a little bit of money? Yes,” he said.

The hard part will be facing the massive increase in entitlements and finding a bipartisan deal on that, he said. 

“There are a lot people making a lot of tough statements. … We are going to find some expense cuts … and we ought to,” he said. 

So far, the Obama administration has demanded large increases in tax revenue in exchange for any further spending cuts. 

He predicted the debt ceiling would be raised without a default.

“In the end, this is America. We are going to stand up and do it,” he said. 

Separately, Donohue was asked on the program who he supported to be the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. He declined to name a preference between former Obama adviser Larry Summer and Fed board member Janet Yellen.

He praised current chairman Ben Bernanke, saying he believes Bernanke saved the country from the 2008 financial crisis. 

“Maybe he’ll talk Bernanke into staying a while,” he said.