Suzanne Clark To Be First Woman to Lead U.S. Chamber of Commerce

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Suzanne Clark, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, will take over as chief executive officer of the powerful Washington lobbying group next month.

Clark will replace the chamber’s longtime chief, Tom Donohue, the group announced Tuesday. She will be the first woman to helm the group, at a time when the business community faces challenges including economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic and Democratic control of Congress and the White House.

“American businesses are dealing with the uncertainty of the pandemic, the challenges of a recession and uneven recovery, stark shifts in government leadership and policy, and near-constant disruptions being driven by rapid technological advancement,” Clark said in a statement.

She also cited “tremendous opportunities for businesses to serve people and communities.”

The chamber has long been allied with Republicans in its push for pro-business policies, yet Clark takes over at a politically delicate moment: The GOP diverged from the group on trade and immigration policy under President Donald Trump, and the chamber has flirted with greater bipartisanship despite its concerns over Democratic economic policy.

The group condemned Trump’s efforts to overturn the election and promised to stop donations to some members of Congress, but it has also pledged to fight moves by progressive Democrats on wages, labor and health care.

Democratic candidates and parties accounted for just over a quarter of the chamber’s federal political giving in 2020, up from less than 10% in 2016, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based group that tracks political donations. The 2020 total was the third-largest share the group donated to Democrats since 1992, according to the CRP.

The chamber’s overall political giving increased dramatically under Donohue, who took over in 1997. Yet in recent years, he had also sought to reward Democrats for working with their Republican counterparts in the group’s annual scorecards for lawmakers.

Clark spent much of last year leading the group’s response to the pandemic and the resulting economic crisis. The chamber cited her role in “strengthening relationships with state and local chamber of commerce organizations” ahead of the coronavirus lockdowns.

The group had backed last year’s bipartisan stimulus bills, particularly its small business loans, but failed to get congressional support for liability protections for Covid exposures that it had sought.

Earlier in February, the chamber called for President Joe Biden to pursue a bipartisan path in his recovery plans, although the administration appears poised to pursue a bill backed by few if any Republicans. The group has pushed for limiting stimulus checks and opposed using the stimulus for a minimum-wage increase.

Donohue, 82, attended a White House meeting on Tuesday with Biden and top CEOs to discuss stimulus plans. Donohue had been expected to step down by next year.

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