Republican Split with Big Business Greatly Exaggerated
Look at who's lined up against H.R. 1.
A report in Roll Call headlined “The GOP’s fallout with big business is already mending” makes clear how short-lived the dispute really was and that fears of “wokeness” taking over are greatly exaggerated.
Some of America’s most prominent corporations infuriated Republicans in Congress earlier this month when they protested a Georgia law setting state voting rules. The longtime alliance between the GOP and business seemed on the verge of cracking up. But when it comes to Democrats’ priority bills in Congress, the old allies are still on the same side.
Indeed, corporate America is joining Republicans in opposing both the House-passed voting rights measure, or HR 1, that is Democrats’ answer to the Georgia law, as well as President Joe Biden’s pending infrastructure bill.
I must admit that I had to read that twice. The entire dust-up, short-lived as it was, was over the Republican attempt in Georgia (and elsewhere) to make it harder for Democratic constituencies, particularly Blacks but urban voters more generally, to vote. Yet the corporations who are boycotting Atlanta are working with those same Republicans to block the law trying to rein in voter suppression?
While the spat over the Georgia law embarrassed Republicans, business has not joined Democrats in their proposed solution to that law’s election strictures — the voting rights, campaign finance and ethics bill, known as S 1 in the Senate, that Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer called a “must do” on April 13.
The same day, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, business’s most prominent advocate in Washington, announced that it “strongly opposes” the Democrats’ bill and that it was considering counting votes in favor of it against lawmakers in the group’s annual scorecard. Specifically, Jack Howard, the chamber’s senior vice president of government affairs, in a letter to senators said the bill would impose unacceptable new regulations on companies engaging in electioneering and even lobbying.
Howard echoed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s complaints that the bill would turn the bipartisan Federal Election Commission into a body run by the party of the president, and about a provision that would match small-dollar contributions sixfold with public funds.
So, my instinct is that taxpayer dollars should not go to political candidates. I’m more unsure of the other regulations, as I both believe business owners have the right to engage in political speech and that corporations and other powerful interests have an outsized role in selecting candidates. But this isn’t about principled views on how our polity should work but rather corporations seeking to protect their privileged position.
Now, it strikes me as perfectly reasonable for them to do so. What’s cynical, though, is siding with Republicans, who have lost any presumption of being good-faith actors on this matter, rather than working with Democratic leaders to get rid of the objectionable provisions while keeping the parts of the bill that directly get at the problem of disenfranchisement. Indeed, it’s almost as if the boycotting was just virtue signaling rather than a genuine concern for the rights of Black citizens.
On the flip side, despite the post-Tea Party and, especially, post-Trump populist rhetoric seemingly making the GOP the party of the white working class rather than Wall Street, apparently Wall Street didn’t get the memo.
If companies have gone “woke,” they haven’t yet told their lobbyists. The Business Roundtable, which represents Fortune 500 chief executives, has recently blasted progressives’ push to weaken or eliminate the Senate filibuster. In a statement, the group said that would be “a major shift in the wrong direction” because it would reduce the need for bipartisan legislation and “could lead to unpredictable and unnecessarily erratic fluctuations in major policy.”
The roundtable also opposed Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen’s bid to establish a global minimum tax on corporations to combat competition among nations to lure businesses with low rates, and last month said it was against Biden’s infrastructure plan because its increase in the corporate tax rate would be “counterproductive to the goal of increasing economic growth and job creation.”
The roundtable said it was nonetheless hopeful an infrastructure package would move through Congress, given its support for such investment. By contrast, the National Federation of Independent Business made no such concession. Its president, Brad Close, said simply that it opposed Biden’s plan to raise taxes. Small firms “have been severely harmed by the pandemic and government shutdowns,” Close said, adding that the federation would “remain steadfast in opposing any tax hikes.”
The National Association of Manufacturers put a number on the damage it said Biden’s planned tax increases would cause. “One million jobs would be lost in the first two years, to be exact,” said Timmons, citing a study he commissioned by Rice University economists John W. Diamond and George R. Zodrow.
Exactly one million jobs.
Again, business interests have just as much right as labor unions and other competing interests to lobby for favorable policy changes. But, certainly, the public messaging of both big business and the GOP are at odds with what they’re actually doing.