As lifelong Democrats who have worked both on Capitol Hill and in the private sector, we are deeply concerned about the strained relationship between congressional Democrats and the business community. Today, it isnít a stretch to say that many Democrats in Congress, particularly the most progressive, view American corporations as political adversaries ó rather than national assets. The biggest losers in this adversarial relationship are working Americans who need their government to work with industry to spur economic growth.
Weíre not saying there isnít any cooperation between congressional Democrats and businesses. Many conservative Blue Dogs have good relationships, as do many members with large employers from their districts or states. Yet, overall, there is a visceral belief by Democrats that big business needs to be reined in and that many of this countryís problems are associated with corporate America, rather than a few bad actors across many business sectors.
The fact that many meetings between business lobbyists and White House staffers often take place at coffee shops around 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., so that lobbyists donít have to be recorded in the visitors log for public consumption, sums it up nicely.
In the hope that Democrats on Capitol Hill and the business community will begin working more closely together, we recommend three things that can be done to rebuild the partyís relationship with business. These ideas do not require getting legislation passed in an increasingly dysfunctional Congress.
1. Thaw the relationship with big business. Lift the lobbyist ban at the Obama White House and the administration. The current White House policy sends a very clear message that businesses and the nation have divergent interests.
In the short term, the lobbyist ban reduces the influence of Democratic lobbyists who truly understand how big business works and who earnestly want to serve their country in the executive branch. In both the long term and the short term, it also reduces the number of qualified and experienced Democratic lobbyists in Washington, further increasing the divide between K Street, congressional Democrats and the White House.
2. Approve the Keystone XL pipeline. There is no doubt it would create thousands of jobs ó even if many of them are temporary. But blocking it is a symbolic gesture against the oil industry and has little do with reducing this nationís addiction to oil and gas consumption. After all, if we donít get the oil from North America, it just means we have to get it from somewhere else.
Approving the Keystone pipeline also sends a clear message to the American people that the president and Congress are serious about job creation and are even willing to take on parts of their own party to do so. While it wouldnít be easy, congressional Democrats and the White House should be buoyed by the thousands of American families whose lives would be dramatically improved through employment.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.