White House Invites Chamber, NFIB to Obama Event

Posted October 26, 2009 at 1:31pm

Amid reports the White House is trying to marginalize the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, officials have invited chamber members to the White House on Thursday to hear remarks by President Barack Obama.The outreach is viewed on K Street as an olive branch to the chamber, which has incurred defections from heavyweight members objecting to the organization’s opposition to Obama’s climate change proposals. The group also opposes major aspects of Obama’s health care and financial services reform efforts. Recent news reports and comments by White House advisers have suggested the administration is seeking to circumvent the nation’s largest business group in order to communicate directly with private-sector officials it prefers.Obama plans to focus his remarks on small business, health care and the economy, according to sources familiar with the event. Also invited are members of the National Federation of Independent Business and possibly other associations with small-business members.Late last week, officials at the chamber and NFIB began receiving calls from the White House about whether they could drum up 130 small-business owners for Thursday’s event, which will be held in a small- to mid-sized room at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and is scheduled to last a half-hour.Officials at the groups responded that it would be impossible to detach so many people from their businesses so quickly and bring them to Washington, so the event will also include trade association staffers.Business officials believe the White House outreach may be spurred by concern among moderate Democrats on Capitol Hill that the administration is playing too tough with the chamber.Noting that White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel had accepted an invitation to address the chamber’s Board of Directors on Nov. 4, Deputy Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the White House appreciates that “the chamber is reaching out— to the administration. “While we have big disagreements on issues like energy and financial regulatory reform, we want to work together on areas where there is agreement, like creating jobs,— she said.