WASHINGTON -- An unusually broad coalition of trade associations and lobbying groups, led by the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, issued a letter Monday to members of Congress, urging them to fund the government and raise the nation's debt ceiling.
Coming from groups like the U.S. Chamber, which contributed millions of dollars in 2012 to help elect Republicans to Congress, the letter was a strong rebuke to the House GOP leadership. Late Monday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) was still threatening to shut down the government unless essential provisions of the Affordable Care Act were dismantled or delayed.
The letter acknowledged the importance of reining in federal spending, a key Republican priority that some in the party have used to justify their dogmatic refusal to fund the government starting Tuesday unless Obamacare is defunded. "However, with the U.S. economy continuing to underperform, the federal government needs to maintain its normal operations pending a successful outcome of broader budgetary reforms," the 251 groups wrote. "It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy."
The wide swath of trade groups that signed the letter reflects a deep fear among American businesses that a U.S. government shutdown, which would immediately furlough approximately 40 percent of the federal workforce on Oct. 1, would harm exports, shut down vital services that industry relies upon and potentially cost the U.S. economy hundreds of millions of dollars.
Signatories include the American Apparel & Footwear Association, the American Beverage Association, the American Concrete Pressure Pipe Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the American Forest & Paper Association, the American Gas Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the American Insurance Association, the American Iron and Steel Institute, and the American Trucking Associations, to name just a few. The complete list is available here.
The letter also weighed in on the looming fight over raising the debt ceiling. Economists predict the U.S. government's borrowing authority, which currently stands at $16.7 trillion, will need to be raised by Oct. 17 in order to avoid a potentially catastrophic debt default.
"Likewise, we respectfully urge the Congress to raise the debt ceiling in a timely manner and remove any threat to the full faith and credit of the United States government," the coalition wrote.
The letter made it clear that Republican lawmakers who refuse to fund the government will find themselves at odds with the undisputed king of special interest groups, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent more than $30 million bolstering Republican candidates in 2012.
The strong stand from the chamber is also likely to deepen an already bitter divide within the Republican caucus, between moderate members who would like to avoid a government shutdown and hard-liners who believe this fight is the party's last chance to stop the implementation of Obamacare.
This rift was on full display Sunday, when California Rep. Devin Nunes, a moderate Republican, told reporters that the hard-liners were "giddy" over the prospect of a government shutdown. "You know who benefits the most here from a shutdown? The Democrats benefit and they know that," he said.