We now know two of the first policies Hillary Clinton would push in Congress if she wins the presidency. One is controversial politically and also crucial to the coalition she appears to need to win the November election. The other is probably the lowest ratio of "sexiness" to "economic importance" that you'll find in a political campaign. Taken together, they form part of something you hardly ever hear talked about in this presidential campaign: a "pro-business" agenda.
A Clinton aide indicated today that within her first 100 days in office, the likely Democratic nominee would send Congress a bill to spend more federal money on infrastructure. The price tag for that bill isn't clear yet, but the aide suggested it will be higher than the $275 billion proposal Clinton has already put forth. This is the unsexy portion of Clinton's first-100-day agenda; the other, much politically sexier, bill she's promised to put forth in that time frame would overhaul immigration policy. It would, among other things, allow millions of Americans who entered the country illegally to eventually earn citizenship here.
Increased spending on roads, bridges, ports, broadband cable and other infrastructure is the sort of policy that economists across the ideological spectrum tend to support, because those improvements pave the way for faster economic growth. There's a general consensus that more immigration also promotes growth, by bringing more workers and consumers into the economy.
For those reasons, big business lobbying groups have made immigration and infrastructure key planks in their agendas in Washington. They have been unable to help push either of them through this Congress, despite President Obama's support for both. Many Republicans, particularly in the House, want to see stricter immigration enforcement and less, not more, government spending.
Those business groups have been worrying for a while that this presidential campaign, with its populist turn in both the Democratic and Republican primaries, was leaving their priorities behind. Their leaders have expressed concern over the policy proposals set forth by Clinton and her presumptive Republican opponent, Donald Trump. Both of them have, for example, opposed new international trade deals that business groups call crucial for investment and growth in years to come.
Clinton has called to raise some taxes on high-income earners and for new regulations in the labor market. It's safe to say that her theory of the case, when it comes to the economy, does not track closely with the lower-tax, lighter-regulation vision that guides most business lobbying groups.
But in her top priorities, at least, Clinton has embraced policies that business leaders have supported vigorously. They almost certainly won't be enough to win her endorsements from corporate lobbying groups. But if she wins, they're the sort of agenda items you could see those groups prodding Republicans in Congress to work with her on — particularly the non-sexy one.