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U.S. Chamber of Commerce backs Republicans who oppose shutdown

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UPDATED The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is preparing to make campaign donations to Republicans that vote to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, putting it at loggerheads with the Tea Party.

That is significant, because The Chamber provides a financial counter balance to House incumbents that could face a primary challenger if they support a "clean" continuing resolution to fund the operation of the U.S. government or to raise the sovereign debt that can be issued by the United States Treasury to avoid a default.

The shutdown crisis began last week over an attempt to nullify the ACA by defunding it. Republicans have unsuccessfully tried to repeal or dismantle the ACA 46 times. Opponents claim that it is a "job killer," but some leading economists say that there's no evidence to substantiate it. Republicans spent months planning their shutdown strategy over the law, an extreme aberration from the normal legislative process and rebuke of the 2012 election.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which opposed the Affordable Care Act (ACA), last month came forward with a large number of Wall St. CEOS against the shutdown and expressed fears that failure to raise the debt ceiling could do substantial economic damage. An AP article published last week said, "concerned, the Chamber of Commerce is preparing to participate in political primaries, protecting friendly lawmakers from conservative challengers." The Chamber wrote me to say that it doesn't select candidates based on any single issue.

A default would trigger an acute worldwide financial crisis by undermining confidence in U.S. Treasury Bills. Congressional Republicans are refusing to raise it unless a list of demands is met - several of which have nothing to do with spending or debt and are more political in nature.

Some influential Republican donors are now threatening to withhold their contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee over the shutdown strategy, the Daily Beast reports. The organization's chairman, Rep. Greg Walden, told attendees at a closed door meeting last month that Republicans were forced into the shutdown by its hard right Tea Party wing and that candidates that objected to its agenda would lose primaries.

Anecdotal reports have shown that at least some Republicans that signed up for insurance through the state exchanges now like the law, but the sourcing is patchy, and only time will tell what the public really thinks. A majority of Americans did not support a shutdown over defunding the law - whether they liked it or not.

A majority vote in the House would end the shutdown, but that hasn't happened due to an informal ‘rule' attributed to former House Speaker Denny Hastert that will not allow a piece of legislation to come to the floor unless it's backed by a majority of the majority. Hastert has recently disowned it and downplayed the rule's significance during his term. 22 Republicans currently would vote to end the shutdown if given the chance (17 are needed).

The shutdown will erode consumer confidence and hiring among U.S. businesses, and is costing approximately US$300 million per day in lost economic output. That is not lost on the Chamber of Commerce, which has become an unlikely ally for the Obama Administration over the past week.

Strange bedfellows indeed.

Update: A Chamber of Commerce spokesperson said: "the Chamber supports candidates for Congress, not on the basis of a single issue or two, but on a range of broad-based business issues. We use the cumulative score over their career to determine involvement."

(image credits: https://twitter.com/darlacameron, Wikipedia)

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— By on October 6, 2013, 1:53 PM PST

David Worthington

Contributing Editor

David Worthington has written for BetaNews, eWeek, PC World, Technologizer and ZDNet. Formerly, he was a senior editor at SD Times. He holds a business degree from Temple University. He is based in New York. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure