The president of the Chamber of Commerce called on Congress and the White House on Thursday to resolve the government shutdown, saying the 20-day-old impasse threatens economic growth and delays solutions on immigration, infrastructure and trade.
“Governing by crisis is no way to do the nation’s business,” Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue said in his annual address on the state of American business. “Our leaders must responsibly fulfill their duties. Dysfunction saps confidence, threatens growth and consequently poses a threat to opportunity in this country.”
Mr. Donohue said the “rocky start” to the new year in Washington has raised questions among business leaders whether Congress and the administration can accomplish needed goals such as an infrastructure plan and a resolution to long-running immigration challenges. He said employers need more workers at every skill level.
Still, the Chamber is projecting economic growth of at least 2.6 percent this year.
Government shutdown talks broke down at the White House on Wednesday when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi again refused to consider President Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a barrier on the southern border. No new negotiations are scheduled, and Mr. Trump is threatening to declare a national emergency so he can build a wall or fence without congressional approval.
Mr. Donohue said policymakers should reach a deal that includes protection from deportation for “Dreamers” who came to the U.S. illegally as children and border security funding.
“We are calling on the president and the Congress to come together and support a reasonable solution: protection for the ‘Dreamers’ and long-term temporary protected status beneficiaries, and the resources necessary to secure the border,” he said. “The Chamber will continue to fight for these and other reforms.”
He praised the administration’s push for China to stop intellectual property theft and other unfair trade practices but criticized the tariffs Mr. Trump has imposed in his trade war with Beijing.
“Tariffs are taxes paid for by American families and American businesses — not foreigners,” Mr. Donohue said. “Instead of undermining our own economy, let’s work with our allies to apply pressure on China and use the tools provided by U.S. trade and international laws that we helped create. Limiting trade is self-defeating, leveraging trade is essential to success in a global economy and creating jobs.”
The U.S. and China concluded three days of talks in Beijing this week aimed at resolving the trade issues. Tariffs that were due to take effect Jan. 1 have been put on hold for 90 days while talks continue.
Mr. Donohue also announced that the Chamber is changing its congressional scorecard to take into account lawmakers’ efforts to reach bipartisan compromise, rather than simply tallying whether they vote for or against a Chamber-supported bill.
“Lawmakers should be rewarded for reaching across the aisle, not punished,” Mr. Donohue said.
The nonpartisan group Issue One called the move “a significant sign that change is coming to Washington.”
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