U.S. Chamber chief says employers tired of Washington dysfunction, high regulation

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The leader of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that American business is “fed up” with a dysfunctional Washington making it harder for employers to hire enough workers and overcome red tape to complete projects.

In her annual address on the state of American business, Chamber President and CEO Suzanne P. Clark said business leaders are frustrated by “the polarization, the gridlock, the overreach, the inability to act smartly or strategically for our future,” issues emanating from Congress and the administration.

“There are too many instances where government just isn’t working,” Ms. Clark said. “When a border crisis allows millions to cross illegally into this country, but we can’t get visas processed for engineers and nurses that businesses are desperate to hire and communities need, government isn’t working. When you’ve got the most significant new investment in infrastructure in a generation and businesses ready to build [but] the projects can’t get approved, government isn’t working.”

She called for an “Agenda for American Strength” that includes speeding up permits for infrastructure and energy projects, fixing the immigration system and ramping up trade deals with nations such as the United Kingdom.

Chief among employers’ concerns is greater regulation by the Biden administration, she said. She criticized rules “driven by ideological agendas and imposed on business without transparency, accountability or clarity.”

“Unprecedented regulatory overreach has accelerated over the past two years,” Ms. Clark said.

A recent review of the administration’s regulatory plan for 2023 found that costly new rules for business are rising at a rate likely to outpace the Obama administration’s regulation speed. Part of the rise is due to President Biden’s initiative to include the impact on climate change in all rulemaking.

The Chamber has sued agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, over new regulations, and Ms. Clark said the business lobby “won’t hesitate to do it again” if necessary.

She said both parties bear responsibility for an uncertain business climate.

“We’re locked in this cycle of hyper-partisanship and political power swings,” Ms. Clark said. “Ten of the past 12 elections have been change elections. Both political parties promise they’ll do the big, hard things when they gain full control and can do it their way, without the give-and-take that comes from working across the aisle. The other party promises to undo those things when they get a majority in Congress, which often turns out to be the very next election.

It means businesses don’t have the clarity or the certainty to plan past the next political cycle.”

The new Republican majority in the House, coupled with a Democrat-controlled Senate, could lead to progress because the most meaningful economic reforms are often bipartisan, she said.

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