- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce unveiled its 2010 legislative priorities Tuesday and promised to be actively engaged in Senate and House elections this year.

In his annual State of American Business address Tuesday at the Chamber of Commerce headquarters just a block from the White House, President Thomas J. Donohue pushed for the approval of several pending trade deals, a renewed embrace of nuclear power, the favorable resolution of numerous “uncertainties” that threaten the resumption of job creation, and the need to prevent both the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts and the imposition of new taxes.

“We plan to organize and carry out the largest, most aggressive voter education and issue advocacy effort in our nearly hundred-year history,” Mr. Donohue pledged.

Welcoming the return of economic growth during the second half of last year, Mr. Donohue warned that “job creators” will be unwilling to significantly increase hiring amid a slew of economic uncertainties surrounding health, environmental, labor, legal and fiscal policies.

“Think for a moment about the nation’s job creators,” Mr. Donohue said.

They face “massive tax increases,” burdensome health care mandates without meaningful reforms or cost controls, climate policies that threaten “significantly” higher energy prices and increased regulation, a renewed push by labor unions to exert more control over the workplace, financial regulatory reform that “could choke off their access to capital,” more efforts by trial lawyers to increase litigation and “the rise of trade isolationism,” which could hamper exports, Mr. Donohue pointed out.

On top of these “uncertainties,” the federal government intends to increase the national debt by at least $9 trillion over the next 10 years, while state governments are going broke, he said.

The Chamber of Commerce president detailed his concerns as the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small businesses, reported that its optimism index fell to the lowest level in five months.

Meanwhile, as Mr. Donohue called for approving pending trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia as part of the Chamber of Commerce’s goal of doubling exports in five years, the Commerce Department reported that the nation’s trade deficit jumped 10 percent in November to $36.4 billion.

Most Democrats and labor unions have argued that liberalizing America’s trade policies over the past 20 years has led to unprecedented global imbalances, including record-level U.S. trade deficits, which many analysts say contributed to the recent global economic crisis.

On Monday, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called for a renewed effort by Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (the so-called card check bill), which would make it much easier for labor to organize the workplace.

Mr. Donohue said he did not expect card check to pass this year, including its provision that would allow federally appointed arbitrators to force a first contract on newly organized companies.

Nor does Mr. Donohue expect the Senate to adopt the House-passed climate-change bill, which he said would “tie economic activity in knots.” As a result, he said, “a growing number of Democrats in the Senate are running from this approach as fast as they can.”

The Chamber of Commerce was “neutral” on establishing “a reasonable price on carbon,” Mr. Donohue said, but he declined to disclose that price. “We don’t negotiate with ourselves,” he said, adding that the Chamber of Commerce would participate in negotiations setting a “reasonable price” for carbon.

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