House speaker nominee Tom Emmer is no friend of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (R-MN) arrives for a House Republican conference meeting to choose a nominee in the race for House Speaker at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, October 24, 2023.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Rep. Tom Emmer is the latest Republican nominee for speaker of the House, and that could mean a fresh headache for the nation’s largest business lobbying group.

Emmer, like former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, is one of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s biggest critics among House Republicans. If Emmer were to become speaker, his dislike of the Chamber could mean that the group could be boxed out from either meeting with him or other members of Republican House leadership.

A lack of engagement with House Republican leadership, particularly the speaker, could mean that the Chamber will have little impact on future legislation.

Yet Emmer, as of Tuesday afternoon, was far from a lock to become speaker. He still needs dozens of votes to get to the necessary 217 supporters in a House floor vote. Emmer also has a big antagonist in former President Donald Trump. “Voting for a globalist RINO like Tom Emmer would be a tragic mistake,” Trump posted on his Truth Social account, using the acronym for the insult “Republican in name only.”

Much of the animosity among Republicans toward the typically GOP-friendly Chamber stems from the group’s support of some Democrats in recent congressional races. When McCarthy was speaker, he was known to not meet with the Chamber of Commerce on key issues, including a recent debate over the debt ceiling.

“The U.S. Chamber has lost its way. They’re more focused on pandering to Democrats than supporting the pro-job and pro-growth principles they once purported to uphold,” Emmer posted on Twitter, now known as X, in July 

Emmer was in charge of the National Republican Congressional Committee, the campaign arm for House Republicans, when the Chamber endorsed Democrats during the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. Asked how Emmer will engage with the Chamber if he becomes speaker, a person close to the Republican nominee for the speakership said: “Emmer’s feelings on the U.S. Chamber have been very clear.”

Out of the nine Republicans who initially raised their hands to be speaker-designate this time around, Emmer was the worst possible result for the Chamber, given his intense criticism of the group, according to two other people familiar with the matter. These people declined to be named in order to speak freely about private discussions.

A spokesperson for the Chamber of Commerce did not return a request for comment. A spokeswoman for Emmer’s office did not return a request for comment.

For years, the Chamber was considered a go-to lobbying group for the Republican Party. It supported Republican-led tax reform legislation, including large tax cuts for businesses and wealthy Americans, which then-President Trump signed in 2017.

But the relationship between the Chamber and some Republican officials soured since then. The group opposed Trump’s tariffs on goods coming in from China, which prompted anger among Trump’s core supporters. Previously, many Republican lawmakers had long opposed starting a trade war with China.

The Chamber has continued to support Republicans despite the criticism the group has received from House Republican leadership. Its political action committee has already donated toward the reelection campaigns of Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who’s the interim speaker; Rep. Mike Gallagher, R-Wis.; and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., according to the Federal Election Commission records.

The Chamber gave more to Republicans than Democrats during the 2022 election cycle, according to data from OpenSecrets. Emmer’s campaign received $1,000 from the Chamber of Commerce in 2015, according to an FEC record.

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