By Lydia Wheeler
The leader of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday assailed the “very loud” voices in the Republican presidential race who advocate “walling off America,” taking what appeared to be a swipe at Donald Trump.
While Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue did not mention Trump by name, he denounced candidates who he said “are attacking whole groups of people based not on their conduct but on their ethnicity or religion.”
“This is morally wrong and politically stupid,” Donohue said in his annual State of American business address.
Donohue later denied that his remark was aimed directly at Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination.
"It referenced anyone in the process of the debates that chose to go in that direction," Donohue said. "It's not solely that one candidate."
Trump alone among the 2016 hopefuls has called for temporarily banning Muslims from entering the United States, a step he said is necessary to protect the country from terrorism.
The Chamber president also took aim at Democrats who he said are "promising to double down on the current administration's policies — more spending, more entitlements, more taxing and more regulating. I guess they figure that if something isn't working, just do more of it. Does that make any sense?
As it has in the past, Donohue said the Chamber will not be making an endorsement in the 2016 race, though he warned the group will not be silent.
“While we will not be participating in the presidential race, we will weigh in on presidential policy proposals,” Donohue said. “If candidates choose to beat up on business, they’re going to hear from us.”
Elsewhere in his address, Donohue pledged that the Chamber will challenge President Obama’s “regulatory tear” in the courts.
“You can be sure our litigation center will be busier than ever in the final year of this administration,” he said.
“Our law firm is already challenging the so-called Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the U.S. rule and the administration’s new ozone rule.
“There will be others,” he said.
The focus, he said will be on curbing class action abuses and reigning in overregulation.
“I can tell you that business people at companies large and small wake up each morning and wonder what the government is going to do to them today,” Donohue said. “The current administration is on a regulatory tear and this will continue until the day the moving van backs up to the door of the White House next January.”
He ticked off ObamaCare, EPA measures and Dodd-Frank regulations as the main things holding the economy back.
The address, which came less than 48 hours after the President’s State of the Union, is traditionally the Chamber’s opportunity to map out its policy agenda for the new year.
Donohue said the Chamber would work to expand American trade by vigorously supporting the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, advancing entitlement reform, expand American energy and supporting pro-growth candidates in key states and districts.