The divide in the Republican Party may have just gotten a little wider. Tom Donohue, president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, on Wednesday laid out an ambitious 2014 agenda that could have the organization butting heads with tea party groups this election cycle -- even if the Chamber is a business lobby usually seen in the same corner as the right wing of the Republican Party.
The main point of contention between the two is immigration reform, which the Chamber wants done soon over the objections of tea party Republicans, who oppose it.
A 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill failed to leave Congress because of Republican obstruction to the Democratic project for overhauling the system. Democrats propose doubling agents on the Southern border and a 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. However, Republicans want to tackle the issue with several piecemeal bills, if any, and take time to decide what to do about the undocumented immigrants.
Still, that doesn't mean they aren't working. In fact, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has hired Rebecca Tallent, a former immigration adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to devise a reform plan. And the Chamber, which has been losing some of its grip on the political right to a vocal tea party faction, is putting the weight of America's largest business lobby behind that pragmatic approach.
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Here are some warnings Donohue delivered during a State of American Business speech in Washington:
2014 Is Immigration Reform’s Year
“We’re determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted. The Chamber will pull out all of the stops through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with our friends in the union and faith-based organizations and law enforcement groups and others to get this job done.”
Do-Nothing Lawmakers Will Feel The Burn
“The pundits will tell you it’s going to be very, very hard to accomplish much of anything this year. After all, don’t you remember? It’s an election year. We hope to turn that assumption on its ear by turning the upcoming elections into a motivation for change. It’s based on a simple theory: If you can’t make them see the light, then at least let’s make them feel the heat. In primaries and in general elections, we will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation’s problems and who understand that business is not the problem; business is a part of the solution.”
It’s Pro-Business Time
“In 2014, the Chamber will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position and our influence in the Senate. The business community understands what’s at stake. They respect our political team, support our strategy, and understand the powerful impact our brand can have in pivotal elections. This means that we will have all the resources that we’ll need to run a most effective political program in 2014.”
Conservative groups like Heritage Action for America aren’t too happy about Donohue’s tough talk. Here’s what Dan Holler, communications director at Heritage Action, had to say:
“To the extent ‘pro-business’ means removing government impediments to growth and prosperity, the business community has no better friends than conservatives and the tea party. However, very few Americans are clamoring for well-connected special interest groups to use their political connections to secure government-sponsored privileges.”