For many years, there has been an alliance between Republicans and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on fiscal issues–but the partnership is starting to see some cracks.
Last summer, Republican leaders signaled if they took over Congress, they would scale back on meeting with the Chamber when the group pushes its legislative priorities.
So far this year, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-La., have not met with the U.S. Chamber.
Much of this stems after the U.S. Chamber endorsed a few Democrats in the 2020 and 2022 elections.
On top of that, GOP leaders have said the priorities of the U.S. Chamber have not aligned with the priorities of House Republicans or their interests.
“Washington has radically shifted away from the pro-business philosophy of most local chambers across America and unless the Chamber gets back to their traditional pro-business roots, they should not expect to have any engagement with the majority leader,” insisted Scalise’s office.
The U.S. Chamber defends its endorsements by noting that it has always backed a handful of pro-business Democrats.
But the split between the GOP and the U.S. Chamber has widened over issues like immigration and the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement, which Republicans have called “woke.”
The U.S. Chamber’s priorities include lower taxes, reduced spending, fighting overregulation and numerous other issues. Increasingly, members of the U.S. Chamber have voiced concerns over the GOP pushing more of a populist agenda, including on immigration.
The. U.S. Chamber has been accused of siding with corporations and Democratic activists who support a number of immigration reforms, including providing some form of amnesty for illegal immigrants. The U.S. Chamber insists it has called for more legal immigration, including doubling the amount of work visas to help with supply and worker shortages.
But a group allied with conservative members in the GOP–the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)–insists the views of the U.S. Chamber is shaped by the need for more cheap labor.
“The fact is this: the Chamber has been on the wrong side of the immigration issue for decades. Instead of fighting for working-class Americans, they continually push for more and more immigration – both illegal and legal – as a way to drive down wages,” FAIR maintained.
Taxes are also a possible dividing point between the U.S. Chamber and the FOP.
In 2019, the Trump administration wanted Congress to put forth an infrastructure bill. Some Republicans in the U.S. Senate supported paying for the proposal with a 25-cent gas tax increase.
The U.S. Chamber joined the AFL-CIO and other liberal groups in endorsing the proposed gas tax increase. This move angered some Republicans and pro-tax reform groups.
In 2022, when gas prices were $4 a gallon, there were more calls for a gas tax holiday. Several Republican governors, including Florida’s Ron DeSantis, pushed for legislation to support gas tax holidays.
But according to the Wall St. Journal, the U.S. Chamber sent a letter to members of Congress, informing them that it would reward lawmakers who oppose a federal gas tax holiday.
The U.S. Chamber’s call for increasing the gasoline tax has been echoed by local chambers of commerce, including in Florida.
Over the last three years, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, led by current Jacksonville mayoral candidate Daniel Davis, has supported higher taxes on gasoline. In 2020, the Jacksonville Chamber supported increasing the local gasoline sales tax for more school funding, even after the district received million in COVID relief money. In 2022, the Jacksonville Chamber supported increasing the local gas tax after the city received hundreds of millions in federal funds, including COVID relief moneys and from the federal infrastructure bill.
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