‘THERE’LL BE A LOT OF POLITICAL CARRYING ON, BUT IT WILL BE DONE’…. Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, played a critical role in electing a new Republican majority to the House. While he’s no doubt aware of some of the pressure from the GOP’s activist base, Donohue also knows his Republican partners can’t — or at least shouldn’t — do anything that undermines the nation’s business interests.
Consider this exchange from MSNBC this morning:
CHUCK TODD: Are you going to be actively working on these folks that you supported in the election, telling them, ‘Hey, don’t mess around with the debt ceiling,’ or ‘Don’t mess around with these trade deals’?
TOM DONOHUE: We absolutely support the expansion of the debt. We think, by the way, it’s in everybody’s interest to do a few things on spending while we’re at that, to demonstrate we’re moving in the right direction. But who could imagine that new people come to town and cut the most significant deficit while we have high unemployment two weeks into the deal? So we’ve got to do the debt ceiling. There’ll be a lot of political carrying on, but it will be done.
The “carrying on” Donohue referred to will be coming, of course, from conservatives who are his ostensible partisan allies.
But Donohue realizes that, given his role representing business interests, his voice in Republican circles is arguably louder than any other GOP contingent. If he tells the party the debt ceiling has to be raised, Republicans know they have little choice — and Democrats know not to take GOP hostage strategies too terribly seriously.
Of particular interest, though, is the division between Big Business heavyweights like Donohue and those engaging in the “political carrying on” he wants to ignore. A labor source told Greg Sargent today that this division on the debt ceiling is evidence of a “big divide on some issues between ‘traditional’ Republican business support and the new tea party folks.”
This hasn’t gotten a lot of play, but this divide deserves more attenion. There have always been simmering tensions between Republican factions, but it’s worth remembering that Tea Party activists and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have quite a few differences, and make contradictory demands of party leaders. It will be a challenge for the GOP to make both happy at the same time.
Over the past couple of years, Republicans have done reasonably well taking orders from Donohue and his crowd, while distracting Tea Partiers with shiny objects. If I had to guess, I’d say Boehner & Co. will stay the course with this strategy, and count on confused Tea Partiers being easily misled, but it won’t be easy.
Something to keep an eye on.