Top biz group vows ‘vigorous’ spending for GOP in 2014

Chris Moody

The nation’s largest business advocacy group vowed on Monday a “vigorous” round of political spending to keep the U.S. House of Representatives Republican in President Barack Obama's final two years in the White House.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will begin spending on congressional races as early as next spring, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said on Monday.

“On behalf of the American business community, given a choice, I would not like to see this administration with a White House, the Senate and the House,” Donohue said during a breakfast meeting sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I think it would be a long two years. You can be sure that we’ll be very vigorous in the House. We’ll also participate in the Senate.”

The Senate and White House are currently controlled by Democrats while Republicans have a majority in the House.

The Chamber, which spent $33.8 million on federal elections in 2010 and $35.6 million during last year’s election, according to Federal Elections Committee data, traditionally spends heavily in favor of Republicans, but Donohue did not rule out helping Democrats in 2014. 

“We will spend what it takes,” he said, “We will do whatever seems to be the best thing for the country and the American business community.”

Despite significant muscle on Capitol Hill, the Chamber’s influence seems to have waned recently, as a new crop of Republicans with support from the tea party have ignored the Chamber’s voting recommendations.

The division was on display during congressional dispute over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling during the past few months. In Sept., a majority of House Republicans refused to fund the government unless the federal health care law was delayed or defunded, despite pleas from the Chamber and a broad coalition of business groups. Once the government shut down in Oct., the Chamber urged lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling, which only happened as part of an 11th-hour bipartisan deal negotiated between Senate leaders.

The effort to tie Obamacare funding to the government spending bill was led in part by the Senate by Texas freshman Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who, to the consternation of Republican moderates and business groups, successfully lobbied House lawmakers to adopt his strategy.

At the breakfast meeting on Monday, Donohue suggested that Cruz, who arrived in the Senate this year, still had to learn the ways of Washington if he wanted to accomplish something.

“I don’t know Sen. Cruz. We’re all getting to watch him. I sort of think about him as a tennis player. If you’re going to rush the net all the time, you’d better have a lot of motion to the left and the right. He hasn’t proved that to me yet,” Donohue said. “He still has a lot of relationships to make. My view is, he hasn’t got the votes to do what he wants to do, so then what does history show? After a while he’ll start talking to people about how to get done what he wants to get done instead of telling everyone how he’s going to get it done.”

When a reporter in the meeting asked if the Chamber would prefer just to have Cruz “sit down and shut up,” Donohue replied: “That might be one thing we can work on.”