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Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business

The feud between Republicans and major corporations over voting laws is creating an opportunity for Democrats and President BidenJoe BidenBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE to build new political ties.

GOP ties with big business frayed during the Trump era, when corporations sometimes found themselves at the end of then-President Trump’s barbs, and were often uncomfortable with his rhetoric about women, minorities and immigrants. 

Now the tensions are rising again as companies speak out against Georgia’s voting law, and Major League Baseball pulls its All-Star Game from Atlanta in protest.

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Democrats are seeing an opportunity to build inroads with business, despite real differences over some policies.

“The business community trusts us because we are bringing stability and reliability to a process that has been incredibly chaotic for the last four years,” said Rep. Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderAmerica's Jewish communities are under attack — Here are 3 things Congress can do Lawmakers demand justice for Adam Toledo: 'His hands were up. He was unarmed' Democrats see opportunity in GOP feud with business MORE (D-Ill.), chairman of the moderate, pro-business Democrats’ NewDem Action Fund.

Differences between the White House and Democrats and business aren’t hard to find.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable and National Association of Manufacturers are among the groups opposed to raising the corporate tax rate, a key provision in Biden’s infrastructure proposal.

The battle over the infrastructure bill in some ways is a return to the past, when business groups were reliable allies of Republicans.

“It’s absolutely the wrong time to impose new burdens on the private sector,” GOP fundraiser Dan Eberhart said in a recent interview. “He’s taking investment decisions away from the private sector and handing control to government.”

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Yet the divisions between business and the GOP are growing, despite their alignment on some traditional issues.

As Trump’s brand of populism has sprouted within the GOP, it has created new tensions with business over issues such as trade. Moderate Democrats in Congress want to take advantage of those tensions and paint themselves as the steady party for business to work with. 

“Democrats should try to be the good governing party. I think there’s a lot of demand for that from the public and business. Democrats ... should consider themselves the party that can work with business. That doesn’t mean you can always agree on everything, so there is still that tension point on various issues that will happen over time,” said Daniella Ballou-Aares, who worked in the Obama State Department.

Democrats are optimistic Biden can deliver wins for the business community like the COVID-19 relief package, which business leaders embraced although it received no Republican support.

“It would be a missed opportunity for business and for Biden not to work towards successful legislation. ... We’re so at that moment and I think it would be a shame if that moment is allowed to pass by on either side,” Ballou-Aares said. 

The other big dividing line for business and the GOP, magnified by Trump, was on issues of race.

A number of CEOs spoke out against Trump when he said both sides were to blame in Charlottesville, Va., after white supremacists and Nazis battled counterprotesters in August 2017.

The fight over Georgia’s voting law revolves around corporations wanting to distance themselves from any effort seen as preventing minority groups from voting — particularly after Trump’s unsubstantiated allegations just months ago that widespread fraud led to his electoral loss. Misinformation surrounding the election culminated in an angry mob attacking the Capitol.

Republicans argue the true nature of the Georgia voting law has been misstated by Democrats and the media, and that corporations are essentially turning on them in favor of a new “woke” culture.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenators shed masks after CDC lifts mandate Trump signals he's ready to get back in the game Manchin, Murkowski call for bipartisan Voting Rights Act reauthorization MORE (R-Ky.) cautioned corporations to "stay out of politics" as multiple companies expressed their opposition to the new Georgia voting law.

“And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates,” he said Monday.

It’s hard to see Democrats and big business forming a true lasting partnership.

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Progressives in Congress are deeply critical of corporate America, which is increasingly a target for populists in both parties. Liberals have pressured Biden to distance himself from Wall Street, launching campaigns even against some would-be Biden nominees deemed to have corporate ties.

Yet Trump has also left a real opening for Democrats.

Dozens of companies responded to the Capitol riot by freezing donations to the 147 Republicans who voted to overturn the election results after the mob was turned out of the halls of Congress.

Trump has also continued to be an antagonist, calling for his supporters to boycott Coca-Cola and other companies that have expressed concerns about the new Georgia voting law.

A former senior official in the Trump Commerce Department said if Democrats and the White House can solidify the relationship with business, it could help them in the 2022 elections.

“If the Biden team can reassure business that they will always have a seat at the table, they could really leverage a historic break with their natural allies in the GOP and change the landscape of these many suburban races,” the former official said.