WASHINGTON — Big business groups like the Chamber of Commerce spent millions of dollars in 2010 to elect Republican candidates running for the House. The return on investment has not always met expectations.Aww, poor Huckleberry – what a shame he and his pals didn’t take K.O. seriously when he uttered these prescient words about a year and a half ago…
Even though money for major road and bridge projects is set to run out this weekend, House Republican leaders have struggled all week to round up the votes from recalcitrant conservatives simply to extend it for 90 or even 60 days. A longer-term transportation bill that contractors and the chamber say is vital to the recovery of the construction industry appears hopelessly stalled over costs.
At the same time, House conservatives are pressing to allow the U.S. Export-Import Bank, which has financed exports since the Depression, to run out of lending authority within weeks. The bank faces the possibility of shutting its doors completely by the end of May, when its legal authorization expires.
And a host of routine business tax breaks — from wind energy subsidies to research and development tax credits — cannot be passed because of Republican insistence that they be paid for with spending cuts.
Business groups that worked hard to install a Republican majority in the House equated Republican control with a business-friendly environment. But the majority is first and foremost a conservative political force, and on key issues, its ideology is not always aligned with commercial interests that helped finance election victories.
“Free market is not always the same as pro-business,” said Barney Keller, spokesman for the conservative political action committee Club for Growth.
There could be real-world consequences to the conservative rebellion. The 90-day extension of the highway trust fund that House Republican leaders say they will pass this week in lieu of a broad highway bill would keep existing projects moving for now. But business groups say few new government-funded infrastructure projects can get under way without longer-range certainty about federal backing.
Some Republicans are growing worried about the ramifications of these fights. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, has pressed to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, but at the insistence of Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, he joined his party in opposing Democratic efforts to add reauthorization to a small-business finance bill. Now Mr. Graham says his party has to find a way to move a stand-alone bill, and fast.
“Come June, if this program dies, it will be the end of job creation for thousands of businesses for no good reason,” he said. “And it’ll happen on our watch, with our fingerprints on it.”
…and this one goes out to the miscreants at the “US” Chamber of Commerce (really dipping into the “moldy oldie” archives – sorry the sound isn’t the best).