New Chamber CEO Praises Pro-Business Democrats Amid GOP Rifts

Suzanne Clark, the incoming chief executive officer of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, praised Democrats who joined the lobbying group’s “fight” for pro-business policies last year and called for bipartisanship on the nation’s economic response to the Covid-19 pandemic and other issues.

“We did support more Democrats last year than we have before because they supported our priorities,” said Clark during a Bloomberg TV interview Wednesday.

New Chamber CEO Praises Pro-Business Democrats Amid GOP Rifts

Clark will take over next month as the first female chief of the biggest U.S. lobbying group, replacing longtime CEO Tom Donohue, who the chamber announced Tuesday is stepping down.

Although the chamber has criticized policy proposals by progressive Democrats, Republicans in the Trump era had moved away from the group’s positions on trade, immigration and governance while still receiving the bulk of the its political donations.

She told Bloomberg that the group, which was founded in 1912, “will work with anyone who wants to work with us.” President Joe Biden’s administration should find bipartisan paths forward on stimulus and infrastructure, she said while warning against tax increases.

The chamber and its employees gave more than $200,000 to Democratic candidates in 2020, the most since 1992, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Nearly three-quarters of its political donations still went to Republicans, however, and Donohue had pledged to fight progressive proposals on wages, the gig economy and health care.

But some moderate Democrats emerged as being more business-friendly than some of their Republican colleagues.

“We had more Democrats join us in that fight last year, and that was a good thing,” Clark said.

She said the group’s concerns about President Donald Trump’s approach to trade and tariffs, and urged Biden to negotiate with China alongside allies.

Clark reiterated that the chamber is looking at stopping its donations to members of Congress who supported Trump’s efforts to overturn the election, which culminated in a deadly attack on the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6. She said, though, that some lawmakers may continue to receive campaign donations based on their history or subsequent actions.

“There are people who lost our support on Jan. 6, no doubt about it,” she said. “We need to look at the events leading up to that date and what’s happened since then and who turns to governing.”

Following Donohue’s attendance at a White House meeting on Tuesday on the stimulus, Clark said that she believes there is bipartisan support for a Covid bill focused on rolling out vaccines, reopening schools and getting relief to families and small businesses who are in crisis. She added, though, that the chamber would oppose efforts to raise taxes right now and “onerous regulations.”

“In every administration, there’s stuff we love and support and push for and vigorously advance” Clark said, “and in every administration, there’s stuff that we fight.”

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