The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce blasted presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to build a wall along the border with Mexico Thursday, saying it is “morally wrong and politically stupid.”
Chamber CEO Thomas J. Donohue didn’t mention Mr. Trump by name, but criticized “very loud voices” in the GOP “who talk about walling off America from talent and trade and who are attacking whole groups of people based not on their conduct but on their ethnicity or religion.”
“This is morally wrong and politically stupid,” Mr. Donohue said in his annual address on the state of American business.
The chamber has been pushing, unsuccessfully, for Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform backed by President Obama.
Asked later if his comments were aimed at Mr. Trump specifically, Mr. Donohue said he was referring to “not solely one candidate.” He said several GOP presidential candidates have made offensive remarks during the debates.
“If you go back and look at what they had to say about immigration, about Cuba, about issues with trade — I think they stepped over the boundary and they lost track of who we are, and what we stand for, and how we fix this economy,” he said.
Mr. Donohue said the presidential race is “the most surprising and perplexing presidential campaign in modern history, and I would say, in both parties.”
On the Democratic side, he said, “we have candidates promising to double down on the current administration’s policies — more spending, more entitlements, more taxing, and more regulating.”
“I guess they figure that if something isn’t working, just do more of it. Does that make any sense?” he asked.
The head of the business community’s lobbying group said the Obama administration is crushing businesses with ever-increasing regulation.
“The current administration is on a regulatory tear — and this will continue until the day the moving van backs up to the door of the White House next January,” he said. “It has unleashed a runaway EPA that is stretching the law — and in some cases breaking it — in order to assume control over local economic development across America.”
The economic outlook for 2016 is uncertain, Mr. Donohue said, with the U.S. “stuck in the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression.” He said it’s all the more reason for lawmakers to approve of the administration’s Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade pact with 11 other Pacific Rim nations that would lower or eliminate tariffs on thousands of products and services.
Democratic lawmakers uniformly oppose the TPP, saying it will lead to the loss of high-paying unionized jobs in the U.S. With the vote a difficult one for lawmakers in both parties, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, has said it probably won’t come up for a vote in Congress until after the November elections.
Mr. Donohue also did a little boasting about the Chamber’s influence, saying it achieved a flurry of victories in Congress at the end of 2015, including reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank that was opposed by many conservatives as a tool of “crony capitalism.”
“We successfully advocated for Trade Promotion Authority, an end to the outmoded oil export ban, a multiyear transportation bill, reauthorization of the Ex-Im Bank, a new education reform bill, the permanent extension of several tax provisions and multiyear extensions of many others, historic permitting reform to speed up projects, and critical cybersecurity legislation,” Mr. Donohue said.
Dismissing criticism of the Ex-Im Bank’s reauthorization, he said, “From the right we hear charges of crony capitalism — the notion that government spends all day every day figuring out how to help business. Really? That’s not the Washington I know, and I’ve been here a long time.”