Chamber of Commerce CEO talks state of American business

Tom Donohue on 'Your World'


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," January 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, ahead of the president's State of the Union address next week, a not-so-happy preview on the state of American business today.

The Chamber of Commerce's Tom Donohue says whatever gains U.S. companies are enjoying, it's because of what they're doing in their own houses, and not what the president is doing in his. Tom, very good to have you.

Explain the state of business right now. How it's looking?

TOM DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CEO, U.S. CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well -- and thank you, and happy new year.

CAVUTO: To you as well.

DONOHUE: But I think -- I think you look at the numbers, and the current numbers on economic growth, on the reduction in unemployment, and the positive issues that we're seeing in this economy are welcomed, they're important, they're long overdue, and they are about to be under stress.

They will be under stress because of what is happening around the world with our major trading partners. They will be under stress because of changes in regulation. And they will be under stress because of the need to deal with the health care legislation that is now in everybody's lap.

But we're happy for what we have got. We need to see what we have to do to make sure we keep it, and reality will be upon us in a big hurry.

CAVUTO: You know, Tom, I always hear from administration types, who go, you know, Donohue can complain about things, but businesses are booming, their stocks are soaring, and all we hear is he and his ilk whining.

What do you say?

DONOHUE: Oh, I -- whining?

I think that the chamber has been a clear speaker on issues of importance to American business, and because of that, many of the things that have been adjusted, changed, or eliminated have helped American business move forward with investment, with job creation.

Just look what happened with the oil and gas revolution in the United States. In a three-year period of time, we put three million people to work. Where would we be today with our economy if we had not done that? And don't tell me politicians of any stripe had much to do with it.

CAVUTO: Yes. And then it was your guys who had to cut their costs and straighten out their own houses.

But now the question comes as the health care law -- I had a doctor who said that, you know, your annual visits to the doctor might not be such a sure thing. Growing concerns, the bills to pay for this thing. How do you members feel as this rolls out, what they are going to have to deal with?

DONOHUE: Well, I think what is the reality for American companies, as these new parts of the law are put in place, is, first of all, what is the law going to be? We're going to have to cover people at 30 years of -- at 30 hours of work or 40 hours of work?

Are we going to have to have a mandate for individuals or to find their own health care? Are we going to have a mandate on corporations? And all of these issues have already cost billions and billions of dollars as companies prepare for all of this. And we have to understand it -- there are some very good things in the health care bill, and there are some very, very expensive, very difficult things, particularly for small companies and, by the way, large companies, because it's just a multiple...

CAVUTO: Right. Right.

DONOHUE: ... of what goes on in small companies.

And we're not going to get rid of it. We're going to have to refine and it adjust it. And the courts are engaged as well. So, stay tuned, news at 11:00, because this is going to be in the headlines for a long time.

CAVUTO: You know, Tom, I have always -- I have -- you have always struck me as very straight shooter on this sort of stuff. Your office is just across the street from the White House, and you have had the tense periods where the president was -- there was a little bit of friction.

How are things now? How would you describe your relationship with the president and his staff now in these final couple of years?

DONOHUE: Well, I think the Chamber's relationship, as it has been for long time, is very strong with pockets of these folks, obviously with Penny Pritzker, who is a pro...

CAVUTO: Right. DONOHUE: ... the trade representative, who is really moving us in the right direction, and the chief of staff, Zients, and others over in the White House. We have very, very good relationships.

And we have good relationships with State and the security agencies, and we're doing everything we can to help make America's economy as strong as it can and do the second thing that the Chamber has been responsible for, for 102 years, and that is to help our government whenever we can.

CAVUTO: Tom, always good seeing you. Thank you.

DONOHUE: Thank you very much.

CAVUTO: Tom Donohue.

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