- - Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I can understand why a handful of Republicans have criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for working with the Biden administration on a handful of issues. But I think it is not a wise move for Republicans to go to war with one of the few institutions in D.C. that will support pro-business policies that will keep the American economy great and growing.

There is lingering anger for the Chamber endorsing nearly two dozen freshman House Democrats in the last election cycle. According to Politico, that decision to back Democrats, “represent(ed) a sharp departure for the traditionally conservative Chamber, which has spent over $100 million backing Republican candidates during the past decade, and it threatens to further complicate the party’s prospects in the November election while driving a split in the business community.”

Yet, criticism by Republicans seems shortsighted when you consider the overall record of the Chamber. They had spent large sums on Republicans in the past and likely will do so in the future if the Democrats keep lurching hard left.

If Republicans attack the Chamber, it will only undermine efforts to stop the big-ticket items that could have enormous negative consequences for U.S. businesses when they are needed — Think Green New Deal.

One issue clouding the Republicans alliance with business is the growing populist wing of the party who have targeted the business community. Look no further than Sen. Josh Hawley’s “Trust-Busting for the Twenty-First Century Act” for an example of the Republican Party’s split between the populist wing and traditional pro-free market wing. Expect the loud populist splinter of the party to attempt to get Republicans to further bash the Chamber as an ideological stand against everything big that is tied to the business community.

Members of the GOP might peek inside their own glass house before casting stones at the nation’s largest business organization for taking on a more bipartisan approach with congressional Democrats. There was a time, after all, when you could bank on Republicans holding the line when Democrats sought legislation that limited the freedoms of American enterprise. There was a time when attempts to expand the strength of organized labor or increase the minimum wage were areas where Republicans could be counted on to draw a line in the sand.

In a stunning move last month, five Republican members of the U.S. House voted in favor of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). This union-backed bill, which passed the House, would deny many independent contractors their businesses by reclassifying them as company employees. It would also require workers to pay union dues even if they don’t want to unionize in 27 states with right-to-work laws.

Some conservative Republicans who have traditionally been right-to-work senators walked away from that view when it came to a unionization push by Amazon workers in Alabama. Same with the minimum wage. Sen. Tom Cotton, Oklahoma Republican, supports increasing the minimum wage in trade for an expansion of the E-Verify program. Angry at Major League Baseball for moving the All Star Game out of Georgia because of a bogus controversy over voting rights, some conservaive senators have resorted to going after the antitrust exemption for the sport. None of these moves are consistent with a pro-business free market agenda.

These are real examples of Republicans deserting core GOP principles that set dangerous precedents and pose serious economic harm to the U.S. economy. Yet the outrage from party leaders for supporting these initiatives is nowhere to be seen. 

The Chamber is working to block the PRO Act. It’s also trying to prevent a planned corporate tax increase. They are working to stop the far-reaching impacts of abolishing the filibuster, an issue that will soon take center stage in the Senate. Further, the Chamber is against a $15 per-hour minimum wage, against a federal land leasing ban, and it’s trying to stop attempts by Democrats to limit companies from being part of the political process. 

American companies are relying on Republicans to bring every weapon they have to block efforts in Congress that threaten American job creation. If a subset of the GOP continues its campaign against the Chamber, the party loses. Conservatives have a right to be mad at the Chamber for supporting so many Democrats in the last cycle, but the Chamber is staying true to its principles of free market capitalism and free trade.

All of this should not blind conservatives into abandoning the one institution that can go to war, and win, against common threats to American economic growth.

• Brian Darling is former counsel and senior communications director to Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican.

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