The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says it will back “pro-business” candidates against Tea Party-styled opponents in this year’s elections, largely in response to conservative lawmakers fueling last year's partial government shutdown fight.
“In 2014, the chamber will work to protect and expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position and our influence in the Senate,” Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue said Wednesday. “We will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process.”
Donohue, in his annual State of American Business speech, didn’t single out the Tea Party specifically but said afterward the chamber’s frustrations are with the movement’s extreme faction and politicians who have linked themselves to the Tea Party.
“It’s people who don’t want to play,” Donohue told Fox Business, referring to last year’s budget stalemate that partially closed the federal government for 16 days and the ensuring debt-ceiling negotiations that almost resulted in the same outcome.
“The Tea Party has lots of good ideas,” Donohue said. “But those people are not helping us.”
In his speech, he said the victory in December of a pro-business candidate over a self-described Tea Party candidate in a GOP congressional primary race in Alabama is a preview of the “aggressive efforts the chamber has planned for the midterm elections.”
The chamber -- the county’s most powerful and deep-pocketed pro-business lobby -- signaled last month its stake in the elections by telling The Wall Street Journal it would spend $50 million in this year’s GOP primaries to back establishment Republicans over Tea Party challengers.
Dan Holler, spokesman for Heritage Action for American, says conservatives are also interested in economic growth and job creation and suggested the chamber’s efforts might be more about Big Business protecting its influence in Washington and beyond.
“If ‘pro-business’ candidates are interested in removing government impediments to growth and job creation, they'll find support amongst conservatives,” Holler told FoxNews.com on Saturday. “But few Americans are clamoring for well-connected special interest groups to use their political connections to secure government-sponsored privileges.”
His comments were similar to those of Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, which often backs Tea Party candidates.
“It looks to me like the chamber is more interested in protecting incumbents and the special deals of some of their members, and that’s where we’re going to disagree in primaries,” Kibbe told Bloomberg News.
Donohue said also said the chamber will get involved in primary and general election races.
“If you can’t make them see the light, then at least make them feel some heat,” he said.
“Our attitude is that the Tea Party Express is looking for strong candidates who are both fiscal conservatives and have an excellent prospect for winning,” group co-founder Sal Russo told FoxNews.com on Saturday. “This is not 2010 when it was important to get the Republican Party to pay attention and end their addiction to big government and spending.
"The biggest problem in Congress today is the Harry Reid and Obama controlled Senate. Both the Tea Party and the business community should be united in finding those good candidates who are committed to growing the economy with lower taxes and less burdensome regulations and providing hope and opportunity to all Americans. Picking needless fights is foolhardy.”