The leader of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday assailed the “very loud” voices in the Republican presidential race who advocate “walling off America,” taking what appeared to be a swipe at Donald TrumpDonald TrumpThe Hill's 12:30 Report GOP lawmaker at town hall calls on Trump to release his tax returns Companies must play new media game to avoid Trump's wrath MORE.
While Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue did not mention the front-runner by name, he denounced candidates he said “are attacking whole groups of people based not on their conduct but on their ethnicity or religion.”
Donohoue later denied that his remark was aimed directly at Trump.
"It referenced anyone in the process of the debates that chose to go in that direction," Donohue said. "It's not solely that one candidate."
Trump alone among the 2016 hopefuls has called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States, a step he said is necessary to protect the country from terrorism.
The Chamber was a leading backer of the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in 2013 but died in the House.
Donohoue also took aim at Democrats he said are "promising to double down on the current administration's policies — more spending, more entitlements, more taxing and more regulating. I guess they figure that if something isn't working, just do more of it. Does that make any sense?
As it has in the past, Donohoue said the Chamber will not be making an endorsement in the 2016 race, though he warned the group will not be silent.
“While we will not be participating in the presidential race, we will weigh in on presidential policy proposals,” Donohue said. “If candidates choose to beat up on business, they’re going to hear from us.”
Elsewhere in his address, Donohue pledged that the Chamber will challenge President Obama’s “regulatory tear” in the courts.
“You can be sure our litigation center will be busier than ever in the final year of this administration,” he said.
“Our law firm is already challenging the so-called Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S. rule and the administration’s new ozone rule.
“There will be others,” he said.
The focus, he said, will be on curbing class action abuses and reigning in overregulation.
“I can tell you that business people at companies large and small wake up each morning and wonder what the government is going to do to them today,” Donohue said. “The current administration is on a regulatory tear and this will continue until the day the moving van backs up to the door of the White House next January.”
He ticked off ObamaCare, Environmental Protection Agency measures and Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act regulations as the main things holding the economy back.
The address, which came less than 48 hours after the president’s State of the Union speech, is traditionally the Chamber’s opportunity to map out its policy agenda for the new year.
Donohue said the Chamber would work to expand American trade by vigorously supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, advancing entitlement reform, expand American energy and supporting pro-growth candidates in key states and districts.