Chamber Of Commerce Drops Call For Health Care Repeal From Annual Policy Address

Tom Donohue signaled that the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce may be softening its attacks against President Obama’s signature accomplishments like the Affordable Care Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kevin Hall reports that Donohue is pledging a “wait-and-see approach” towards the new agency and has not decided if the organization will challenge the recess appointment of Richard Cordray as its director.

During his annual State of the Business address yesterday, Donohue also adopted a more moderate tone towards health care reform. “The health care law established 159 new agencies, panels, commissions, and regulatory bodies,” Donohue said, but did not echo his 2011 call for repealing the law in its entirety. Consider the contrast:

DONOHUE IN 2011: By mid-December, HHS had already granted 222 waivers to the law—a revealing acknowledgement that the law is unworkable. And, with key provisions under challenge in the courts by states and others, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Last year, while strongly advocating health care reform, the Chamber was a leader in the fight against this particular bill—and thus we support legislation in the House to repeal it. We see the upcoming House vote as an opportunity for everyone to take a fresh look at health care reform—and to replace unworkable approaches with more effective measures that will lower costs, expand access, and improve quality.

Indeed, the Chamber of Commerce spent millions opposing the legislation in 2010 and its rather light criticism of the measure may signal a growing acceptance of reform among the health care industry. The Obama administration has worked hard to accomodate the concerns of health care stakeholders in the implementation process and the industry has partnered with the government in developing some of the law’s regulatory structure.

Health care groups may also be opposed to the politics of repeal. While the GOP presidential candidates have pledged to eliminate the law “on day one,” unless Republicans win a 60 seat majority in the Senate, a president will not be able to get rid of the measure in its entirety. The Senate could pursue repeal through the reconciliation process, but that piecemeal approach would likely create great uncertainty for the industry and is unlikely to attract significant support.