Business groups are pressuring centrist Democrats to oppose their party’s $3.5 trillion spending package that raises taxes on corporations, with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warning it could pull endorsements for lawmakers in tough reelection races next year if they vote for the bill.
The threat from the nation’s biggest corporate lobbying group, which launched a six-figure ad campaign Wednesday targeting five centrists, puts even more pressure on Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Key CDC panel backs Moderna, J&J boosters MORE (D-Calif.), whose caucus can only afford three defections when the sweeping legislation comes to the floor.
Corporate America has thrown its weight behind the Senate-passed $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, which does not include tax hikes, while rejecting the larger spending package that invests in climate, child care and other Democratic priorities, despite Pelosi’s pledge that both bills must be passed together.
The Chamber’s new ad campaign targets Reps. Cindy AxneCindy AxneDemocratic retirements could make a tough midterm year even worse Club for Growth squeezes front-line Democrats on reconciliation plan Biden meets with vulnerable House Democrats with agenda in limbo MORE (Iowa), Angie Craig (Minn.), Antonio DelgadoAntonio Ramon DelgadoUS Chamber targets more House Democrats with ads opposing .5T bill Business groups create new headache for Pelosi Chamber of Commerce warns moderate Democrats against voting for reconciliation MORE (N.Y.), Josh Harder (Calif.) and Elaine LuriaElaine Goodman LuriaFormer VA secretaries propose National Warrior Call Day to raise military suicide awareness Business groups create new headache for Pelosi Chamber of Commerce warns moderate Democrats against voting for reconciliation MORE (Va.), all of whom received surprise endorsements from the Chamber last year. It follows a letter from the Chamber warning that lawmakers who vote for the $3.5 trillion bill will lose the group’s backing.
“No member of Congress can achieve the support of the business community if they vote to pass this bill as currently constructed,” the letter read.
Those lawmakers are not among the group of 10 moderate Democrats who threatened to derail the reconciliation package — with the backing of business groups — in order to secure a vote on the bipartisan bill. The group of 10, led by Rep. Josh GottheimerJoshua (Josh) GottheimerModerates split over climate plans in Democrats' spending package Bleak midterm outlook shadows bitter Democratic battle Democrats downplay deadlines on Biden's broad spending plan MORE (D-N.J.), wants to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill Monday, then continue to work on reconciliation.
Business associations strongly oppose measures in the reconciliation package to increase taxes on the wealthiest corporations and enact a minimum tax for companies that use deductions to avoid paying federal taxes. They’re also attacking a proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices, which would dent pharmaceutical manufacturers’ profits.
The groups are now ramping up their lobbying efforts in support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill ahead of Monday’s planned vote.
“We will not find durable or practical solutions in one massive bill that is equivalent to more than twice the combined budgets of all 50 states,” Chamber of Commerce CEO Suzanne Clark said in a statement Wednesday. “The success of the bipartisan infrastructure negotiations provides a much better model for how Congress should proceed in addressing America’s problems.”
High-profile progressives, however, are promising to block the infrastructure bill until the $3.5 trillion spending package passes Congress.
That threat sparked a last-minute lobbying push from business groups to get House Republicans on board with the bipartisan infrastructure bill. They’re hoping that GOP lawmakers can help moderate Democrats push the bill across the finish line.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), which represents companies like Caterpillar and John Deere, flew its members to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to rally GOP support for the bill.
“We’re making the argument that this is a good bill, it is an infrastructure bill, and that they ought to put policy before politics and put aside any concerns they have about the larger reconciliation bill,” said Kip Eideberg, AEM’s senior vice president of government and industry relations.
The lobbying group only expects 10 to 15 Republicans to support the bill when it comes to the floor, noting that Republicans aren’t opposed to the contents of the infrastructure package but expressed concern about helping Democrats pass a bill that party leaders have said is “coupled” to the reconciliation package.
“Everybody that we spoke to wants to be on board with infrastructure. There was not any hesitation that this is a positive move long-term for our country and our competitive advantage for the future,” said Kevin Smith, general manager at Oklahoma construction equipment manufacturer Ditch Witch.
But House GOP leaders on Wednesday said they are formally urging their rank-and-file to oppose the Senate-passed bipartisan infrastructure bill ahead of Monday’s vote.
The lackluster number of GOP votes might not be enough to overcome progressive opposition. As of Wednesday afternoon, at least nine progressive lawmakers had already indicated that they would not vote for the bipartisan infrastructure bill without reconciliation.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t have the reconciliation bill done, the infrastructure bill will not pass,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalProposals to reform supports for parents face chopping block Democrats see light at end of tunnel on Biden agenda Democrats jostle over health care priorities for scaled-back package MORE (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, told reporters on Tuesday.
“Try us,” she said in response to moderates’ suggestion that progressives are bluffing.
Progressives only hardened their stance after Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinBiden: Negotiating assault weapons ban more difficult than infrastructure, reconciliation deal Biden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Biden says paid leave proposal reduced from 12 to 4 weeks MORE (D-W.Va.) reportedly indicated that he wanted to delay the reconciliation package until next year, all but dooming the chances of a swift passage in the 50-50 Senate.
They’re being cheered on by progressive groups and climate advocates, who see the reconciliation package as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul the tax code and transition into renewable energy.
“Call their bluff and force your ‘centrist’ colleagues to choose between passing both bills, or neither,” the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of wealthy Americans pushing for higher taxes, wrote in a letter to progressive lawmakers Wednesday.