President and CEO, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
February 06, 2023
Between high inflation, the threat of recession, and a bitter fight over the debt limit, this will be the most closely watched State of the Union address for business in recent memory. President Biden has an important opportunity to set the tone for what can and should be a year of considerable bipartisan progress.
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The Chamber's Twitter handle reacted in real time as the President delivered the State of the Union Address on Tuesday evening.
It will be a tall task. The nation’s business leaders—like all Americans—are fed up with hyper-partisanship and polarization. The never-ending gridlock may be business as usual in Washington, but it’s having real-world consequences on job creators, families, and communities.
There are serious challenges that demand urgent action. Here are five things we want to hear from the President on Tuesday night:
A commitment to deficit reduction and a willingness to negotiate on the debt ceiling. We have a debt and deficit problem that ultimately limits the ability of our economy to grow. It is not uncommon for Congress and the administration to include policies to reduce spending as part of a bill raising the debt limit. The President should make clear that he is committed to deficit reduction and that he is willing to sit down and negotiate. At the same time, Congressional leaders must acknowledge that default is not an option.
Advance bipartisan talks on border security and immigration. Millions cross our border illegally each year, but visas can’t get processed for engineers and nurses that businesses are desperate to hire and communities need. The system is clearly broken. Last year, with the strong support and input of the Chamber, there were meaningful bipartisan talks on proposals to secure the border, expand E-Verify, protect Dreamers, and increase the number of employment-based visas. It’s time to get the deal done.
Prioritize permitting reform. One essential, transformational thing Washington can do right now to drive economic growth is pass meaningful permitting reform. For the average transportation project, it takes nearly seven years to obtain federal approval. More complex projects can take a decade if not longer. Congress enacted generational infrastructure investments, but we can’t get shovels in the ground. It’s unacceptable. There is bipartisan agreement on permitting reform—now we need bipartisan action.
A balanced approach to China. Our commercial relationship with the world’s second-largest economy is worth nearly $1 trillion annually and supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs. China also presents real threats to our national security and our values. Failure to strike the right balance could undermine our security, our economy, and our competitiveness. The Biden administration must get back to the negotiating table and continue pursuing a trade deal that addresses policies that are harmful to American businesses.
End the trade blockade. Today we have trade deals with 20 countries, but it’s been 10 years since we added a single new partner to that list. While we’ve sat on the sidelines, other countries have inked 100 new trade deals without us. Expanding trade and investing with other countries supports jobs, creates opportunities, deepens strategic partnerships, and advances free enterprise. It’s time for President Biden to get back to the table and resume negotiations with the United Kingdom, give the U.S. a stronger foothold in Africa, and aim higher on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.
We’re hopeful the President will use his primetime address to advance these issues, but business isn’t waiting. The U.S. Chamber recently called for an "Agenda for American Strength"—an aspirational and forward-looking plan to build a 21st century infrastructure, address inflation by solving the worker shortage crisis, advance American energy production, assert our leadership across the globe, and reinforce the rule of law.
According to a recent Gallup poll, more Americans say government—the chronic divisiveness and dysfunction—is our nation’s top problem. Our “Agenda for American Strength” is practical and actionable this year in this Congress, but we need leaders in both parties to come to the table and do their jobs on behalf of the country and business. President Biden should seize the opportunity Tuesday night to drive action on this important work.