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Chamber of Commerce Lawyers Up to Take on Key Democratic Reforms in 2013


"You’ll see us in court more than you did in the past,” says Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. (File Photo/Chet Susslin)()

One of the nation’s most powerful business lobbies plans to boost its lawyering as it seeks to undo two of the biggest Democratic achievements of the past four years. 

The Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to “address the coming flood of new regulations that will discourage our job creators,” Chamber President Thomas Donohue said in a Thursday morning speech. Primarily, he said, that means taking on Democrats’ landmark financial and health care reforms—the Dodd-Frank law and the 2010 Affordable Care Act—as well as major environmental regulations, sometimes by way of lawsuits.

“We try and work with the agencies, we try and work with the committees, we try and work with the White House on regulations that we think we can fix as they are being written and implemented,” Donohue said. But some regulations are “just so difficult or egregious,” that the group has no other option but to lawyer up. As a result, the chamber plans to significantly expand its private law firm this year and the sheer number of new regulations means “you’ll see us in court more than you did in the past,” Donohue said.

Reining in regulations, however, is just one of the five broad goals that comprise the chamber’s “American Growth and Jobs” agenda for 2013. The pursuit of another priority, immigration reform, may well line up with Democrats’ goals.

For proof, look no further than whom Donohue, the head of an organization that bills itself as the nation’s largest business group, says he’s working with: Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, which bills itself as the nation’s largest federation of unions. (The two organizations, which historically have had opposing goals, are located about 500 feet apart—and are about as close to the White House as you can get without being on federal property.)

Though Donohue’s speech was light on specifics, he said that comprehensive immigration reform should include better-secured borders, a workable national employee verification system, and an embrace of foreign workers. He called for provisional visas for less-skilled workers and more green cards for foreigners who get advanced degrees at American institutions.

“Even with high unemployment, we have millions of job openings that go unfilled,” he said. “Either the workers come here to fill those jobs or the companies take all of their jobs somewhere else.”

The chamber’s other goals for 2013 include encouraging domestic energy production, expanding trade, and addressing the nation’s fiscal problems through, among other things, entitlement reform.

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