McCarthy and Scalise face off towards US chamber after group backs Democrats

Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Speaker of the US House of Representatives, holds a press conference in the US Capitol Statuary Hall on February 2, 2023 in Washington.

Jonathan Ernest | Reuters

The top two Republican leaders in the House of Representatives go to war against the US Chamber of Commerce as the new Congress takes shape.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republican House Majority Leader Steve Scalise are both refusing to meet with the chamber after the lobby group backed a handful of Democrats in the last two elections, clearly making itself an enemy of powerful congressional leaders.

“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s priorities are not aligned with the priorities of House Republicans or the interests of their own members, and they should not expect to meet Speaker McCarthy while that is the case,” said Mark Bednar, a principal spokesman for McCarthy told CNBC in a statement.

According to spokeswoman Lauren Fine, Scalise will also not be meeting with the Chamber.

“Washington has radically turned away from the pro-business philosophy of most local chambers across America,” she said. Fine also took aim at the chamber’s move to support Democrats running for seats in the House of Representatives, saying that “they shouldn’t expect to deal with Majority Leader Scalise’s office unless the chamber turns to.” back to their traditional pro-business roots.”

Denial of access to the chamber could also prompt other House Republicans to block the country’s largest business organization.

The chamber has continued to actively advocate for Capitol Hill despite the ongoing struggle with leading Republicans. In the fourth quarter of last year alone, the group spent almost $21 million on lobbying, according to its latest disclosure report. The form shows they have lobbied lawmakers in the House and Senate, as well as Biden White House officials, on a variety of bills, including new tax proposals as well as US aid to Ukraine in its standoff with Russia.

McCarthy’s refusal to meet with the chamber is the latest strike in an ongoing feud between some Republican members of the House of Representatives and the national business group. The Intercept reported that House Republicans plan to probe the chamber as GOP lawmakers attack anyone supporting President Joe Biden’s push for more environmental, social and governance (ESG) regulations. Elsewhere, The Daily Caller reported that the chamber plans to sue the Securities and Exchange Commission if it proceeds with a disclosure rule related to climate change.

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives of the Republican House of Representatives are drafting questions to send to the chamber in the coming weeks, asking about their stance on ESG issues as well as some of the group’s own conduct, including reportedly the former CEO of the Chamber to allow Thomas Donohue to use the organization’s corporate jet for personal travel, according to lawmakers and advisers aiming to probe the organization. These individuals declined to be identified by name in order to be able to speak freely about private discussions.

Tim Doyle, a spokesman for the chamber, told CNBC in a statement that the group’s policies align more with House Republicans than Democrats.

“The Chamber’s priorities include lower taxes, reduced spending, fighting over-regulation and numerous other issues, and we agree with House Republicans on many of the issues important to American businesses of all sizes,” Doyle said. “We disagree with those who believe the chamber should become a one-party partisan organization and we recognize that differences have created tensions. However, we will continue to do what we have been doing for over 110 years, and that is advancing the liberty-market priorities of American business.”

House Majority Whip Representatives Tom Emmer, R-Minn., House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik, RN.Y., and Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., did not respond to requests for comment.

McCarthy’s anger against the chamber began after the group supported 23 House Democrats in the 2020 election cycle when Republicans failed to regain a majority. The chamber reportedly supported 23 Republican House candidates and four Democrats during the 2022 campaign.

McCarthy told Breitbart News last year ahead of the last election in November that “the chamber left the party a long time ago” and criticized the organization for supporting Democrats. “I just assume they have as much impact going forward as they have now — none,” McCarthy said at the time.

Axios reported that McCarthy has been speaking privately with Chamber of Commerce board members and heads of state about the idea of ​​replacing current President and CEO Suzanne Clark. The chamber’s CEO was recently confirmed for a new five-year term, according to a memo sent to the board of directors by Mark Ordan, chairman of the board. The memo was sent to board members on Monday.

With McCarthy aiming for the chamber, the business lobbying juggernaut is continuing with business as usual.

Neil Bradley, a former McCarthy deputy chief of staff and the chamber’s current executive vice president and chief policy officer, recently said his “team engages executives and chairpersons as well as rank and file members on a daily and weekly basis. That’s always been the case and hasn’t changed in the past year.”

The chamber’s most recent public tax filings for 2021 show the organization raised just over $197 million that year and $218 million in 2020. More than $105 million of its 2021 budget went to salaries and benefits, the forms show.

Donohue, who resigned from the chamber as CEO in 2021, still received $9.2 million in total compensation that year. Donohue’s 2021 compensation included $8.95 million in bonuses and performance awards, according to the forms.

“Mr. Donohue’s compensation consisted of his 2020 Activity Bonus and a pro rata portion of his 2021 Activity Bonus, both of which were paid to him in 2021,” the filing reads.

According to the forms, Clark saw a total compensation of $5.1 million in 2021. This includes a $3.75 million bonus and incentive package.

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