The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will “pull out all stops” to push immigration reform through Congress this year, the trade association’s president and chief executive said Wednesday during the Chamber’s annual State of American Business address in Washington.
“We’re determined to make 2014 the year that immigration reform is finally enacted,” Thomas Donohue said. “The Chamber will pull out all the stops — through grassroots lobbying, communications, politics and partnerships with unions, faith organizations, law enforcement and others — to get it done.”
Donohue, however, did not offer specifics about provisions or bills, speaking generally about the importance of immigration in encouraging innovation in the U.S. economy.
Donohue also pushed for tax and entitlement reform, expanding trade agreements with Asia and Europe, increasing domestic energy production, and improving the nation’s education system that he said would ultimately help the economy by better training the future workforce.
Donohue’s comments came as House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was telling House Republicans that the GOP leadership would soon release an outline of its position on immigration reform.
Comprehensive tax reform and entitlement reform are unlikely to pass this year, Donohue said in a news conference following the address.
Donohue expressed some optimism about the economic recovery, predicting the U.S. economy will grow nearly 3 percent in 2014, surpassing estimated growth for 2013 of between 1.8 and 2 percent.
“Housing is recovering and overall household wealth has now surpassed its pre-recession level,” he said. “This has boosted consumption, which is leading to more business investment and some new hiring.”
He blamed the slow pace of the recovery and lingering unemployment to “misguided government policies,” and spoke of wanting to make changes to the Dodd-Frank financial regulation law and the new health-care law, including working to repeal or delay the employer mandate.
“Employers are concerned about the negative impacts of Obamacare,” he said. “Many firms are stopping new hires and cutting workers’ hours because of the law’s mandates.”
If efforts with regulators fall short, the Chamber will head to the courts and sue, he said.
Addressing the 2014 midterm elections, Donohue vowed to work to “expand a pro-business majority in the House and advance our position in the Senate,” and indicated the Chamber could challenge lawmakers the group feels has gone against business interests.
“We will support candidates who want to work within the legislative process to solve the nation’s problems — and who understand that business is not the problem, business is a big part of the solution,” he said.