Thursday, January 11, 2007

Business Lobby Shifts its Targets

The popular perception is that business is a monolith that favors the GOP, and that the ascendancy of Democrats in Congress is unalloyed bad news for business interests. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. Both the GOP and the Democrats offer benefits for business; it's just that they generally disagree on what they offer. And while the Republicans are clearly more pro-business than the Democrats, a good lobbyist knows what to push for when Democrats are in power:

At this time last year, boosting domestic energy supply was a top priority for both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Though they haven’t abandoned that goal, the industry groups are now trumpeting their support for expanded research into alternative fuels and clean-energy technologies, a popular cause among Democrats.

Meanwhile, they’ve shifted the modernization of the transportation system, long a concern of the business community, to center stage. Last week, the Chamber announced the launch of a new initiative to promote investment in the nation’s highways, rail network, ports and waterways...

“With the right kind of rebuilding program, not just in transportation but in energy and power as well, we could employ a massive number of Americans for a long, long time,” said Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the Chamber, at a press briefing on Thursday.

A deal on immigration that includes a guest worker program and a path to citizenship for law-abiding aliens is perhaps the most feasible business goal, thanks to the informal agreement of Democrats, several labor unions and the White House on the issue.

On the defensive side, the business lobby seems intent on picking its battles, to judge by its capitulation on minimum-wage legislation, which is expected to pass the House this week.

Meanwhile, Donohue vowed to fend off any attempt by Congress to change the law to make it easier for workers to form unions. Most Democrats and some labor-friendly Republicans back the legislation, but industry groups are vowing to defeat it...

A week after the election, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) announced a proposal to expand access to health insurance coverage to every American — an idea that is touted by most Democrats. For years, AHIP has engaged in many policy battles with Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), the new Ways and Means health subcommittee chairman...

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