Chamber of Commerce tries to rein in Democrats it endorsed

In 2020, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce endorsed 23 freshmen Democrats for Congress. I’m tempted to say that if Congress enacts the Democrats’ massive spending packages, complete with tax increases and anti-business agenda items, the Chamber will have gotten what it deserves. In fact, I will say it.

The Chamber is belatedly trying to avert this disaster and to limit the damage its improvident endorsements caused. It’s warning the Democrats it endorsed to oppose the $3.5 reconciliation package or lose the Chamber’s support.

The Washington Post reports:

The warning shot came in a six-figure ad campaign targeting Democratic lawmakers in five competitive districts across the country. . . .The ads, which began airing on television Wednesday, urge voters to contact their lawmakers and tell them to oppose the package, which proposes an ambitious expansion of the social safety net and major policy responses to climate change, among other things.

The Chamber had promised to include the vote on this package in its annual scorecard that it consults to make its endorsements. The Chamber’s president and chief executive, Suzanne Clark, decried the tax and spending proposal as an “existential threat to America’s fragile economic recovery and future prosperity,” arguing a $3.5 trillion bill would exacerbate inflation. Clark also strongly opposed the tax hikes on corporations that Democrats have proposed to pay for it, arguing they would lead companies to cut jobs.

What, though, did the Chamber expect from a Congress controlled by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer?

The five Democrats targeted are Elaine Luria (Virginia), Cindy Axne (Iowa), Angie Craig (Minn.), Antonio Delgado (N.Y.), and Josh Harder (Calif.). The Chamber says it may roll out similar ads in many other districts.

Rep. Luria refuses to take a public position on the reconciliation package. She says only that she “is closely following the ongoing negotiations” and “wants to see a final package that creates jobs, protects the environment, cuts taxes for working families and is fully paid for.”

Luria’s colleague from Virginia, Abigail Spanberger whom the Chamber also endorsed last time, is similarly non-committal on reconciliation. However, she has said she favors giving Medicare the power to negotiate prescription drug costs. The Chamber opposes this, as do some moderate Democrats, because it would impair the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to develop drugs.

But Spanberger campaigned in 2020 on a promise to force prescription drug prices down through legislation. Which again raises the question of why the Chamber endorsed her.

How will Chamber-endorsed Democrats respond to pressure from the Chamber to oppose the $3.5 reconciliation package? My sense is that, unless the landscape changes dramatically in the next year, most of these Dems are doomed regardless of how they vote on reconciliation.

If they stand in the way of the spending spree, they will alienate the base and, if successful, be forced to run on a record of accomplishing basically nothing. If they go along with Pelosi and company, losing the Chamber’s endorsement will be the least of their worries. They will have forfeited their image as moderates and be swimming against public opinion.

My guess, therefore, is that these members will vote their conscience. And I suspect that in most cases their conscience will tell them to disregard the Chamber and vote to spend vast amounts of our money.

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