WASHINGTON – The president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says the nation's biggest business lobby intends to "pull out all the stops" to pass an overhaul of immigration laws. That would place the chamber on the side of President Barack Obama on one of the White House's top legislative priorities of the year.
"We're determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted," Chamber President Tom Donohue said Wednesday, during his annual "State of American Business" address.
Donohue cast his organization as both an ally and an adversary of the administration on Wednesday. He indicated support for Obama's stance on immigration and also the president's push for global trade agreements.
He distanced himself from some Republicans by saying he doesn't envision a repeal of Obama's health care law. But he said the chamber would seek to eliminate health care taxes and delay or do away with a mandate on businesses to provide health care to employees.
He also said the chamber will continue its efforts change or limit rules imposed by a three-year-old financial regulations bill, passed as a response to the 2008 financial crisis. "And when these efforts fall short and regulators insist on overstepping their bounds, we will head to the courts and sue them," Donohue said.
On politics, Donohue said the chamber would expand its early foray into primary elections this year, saying it would support pro-business candidates who are willing to work within the legislative system. He said the chamber had no interest in backing uncompromising candidates who voice a desire, in his words, to "burn down the town."
Donohue predicted the economy would continue to grow modestly, expanding by as much as 3 percent this year. But he said such growth could improve with less government intervention in business, particularly in the energy industry.
Responding to Obama's emphasis recently on economic disparities in the country, Donohue said policy makers should focus on equal opportunities for all Americans rather than equal outcomes. He said the nation needs a revolution in education and training, arguing that if millions cannot properly read, write or count "that can be a prescription for permanent inequality."
He indicated he agreed with the Obama administration that pre-school education can help establish a solid foundation for students, but distanced himself from Obama's call for federally supported universal pre-school.
"If we're talking about pre-school education that fits a specific problem in specific groups of people, I'm interested," he said.