Jan 14, 2015 - 5:30pm

Why Was a Washington Post Columnist Told, “You’re Crazy” at a Press Conference?


Senior Editor, Digital Content

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U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue and Executive Vice President Bruce Josten at a press conference following the 2015 State of American Business Address.
U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue and Executive Vice President Bruce Josten at a press conference following the 2015 State of American Business Address. Photo credit: Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

After the State of American Business Address, reporters got to throw questions at U.S. Chamber President and CEO Tom Donohue and Executive Vice President Bruce Josten.

Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank didn’t make it boring.

He stirred things up by asking if the U.S. Chamber would step back from previous warnings that Obama administration policies would “destroy” the free enterprise system.

Josten’s response was short: “Destruction of the free enterprise system? I don't think so. You’re crazy.”

"Go find me one place where we projected the destruction of the free enterprise system, and I'll buy you lunch," Donohue added.

Of course Donohue has never said anything like that.

We’ll see who pays up.

Here are some other highlights from the press conference:

Keystone XL Pipeline

Donohue called the six-year delay of the Keystone XL pipeline a “political joke.” “The administration’s own facts clearly show that this project will create jobs and energy security without harming the environment,” he said.

[Read the State Department’s analysis.]

“We’re treating [Canada] very badly on this issue, and I think that’s a mistake,” Donohue added.

Health Care

Because it is 17-18% of the economy Washington, “will be doing health care legislation forever,” said Josten.  As for the strategy towards Obamacare, he said the U.S. Chamber will work to “continue to improve it at every turn.” That includes pushing to restore the 40-hour week definition and the repeal of the medical device tax.

"There will be changes" to the health care law, Donohue added, because it's "omnipresent" to everything that businesses do.

Regulatory Reform

Donohue reminded reporters that the regulatory process hasn’t been modernized since Harry Truman was President.

“We’d like to see real cost-benefit analysis,” Josten said. “It shouldn’t take 12-15 years to permit something.”

Tax Reform

The U.S. Chamber is “all in” on comprehensive tax reform, Josten said. It's also patient. He pointed out, "It didn't take two years [to pass tax reform] like in '85, it really took about five." But it's worth it. “It has one of the biggest potential impacts overall on the economy and our competitiveness," Josten added.

Energy Exports

On lifting barriers to energy exports, Donohue told reporters that despite falling oil prices, “There is plenty of opportunity to export oil and gas with reasonable regulation for the advantage of the American economy to create jobs and to help stability around the world."

Watch the entire press conference on C-SPAN.org.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.