Updated at 2:40 p.m.
Delivering the Chamber's annual state of American business address, Donohue said "real leaders" would tackle U.S. economic challenges now and not put them off until next year. The Chamber president said his organization, which represents more than 3 million businesses, is looking for U.S. government leaders in 2012 to tackle matters that include energy production, trade expansion and intellectual property protection, as well as regulatory, legal and entitlement reform.
The U.S. business community is anxious to move forward, he said. “We really want to put people back to work,” Donohue said. “In many instances, despite all the uncertainties and the impediments and risks, our companies and entrepreneurs are already forging ahead. Business is leading the way and creating jobs.”
A major pillar of the Chamber’s 2012 agenda is energy. Donohue called on the U.S. government to ease restrictions on oil and natural gas developments and approve the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil sands crude from Canada to the United States. President Barack Obama has until Feb. 21 to decide whether to approve the pipeline, which faces opposition from environmental groups.
The pipeline can create 20,000 U.S. jobs immediately and up to 250,000 during the pipeline’s operation, Donohue said.
“There is no legitimate reason – not at all – to subject it to further delay,” Donohue said.
“Ninety-five percent of the people we want to sell something to live outside the United States of America,” he said. “Let’s get out there and convince more of these customers and consumers to buy American.”
At home, Donohue said the U.S. government must pursue efforts to stem the “regulatory avalanche” that has come as result of the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and agency actions.
He said the rules are “a big drag” on the U.S. economy.
“We will go to Congress. We will go to the courts,” Donohue said. “We’ll go to the court of public opinion to explain how a regulatory system run amok is needlessly driving American jobs out of the country or out of existence.”
On legal reform, Donohue said the Chamber will combat the growth of “excessive litigation that is sucking the vitality out of American businesses” and the rise of outside investors who fund lawsuits brought against companies.
Donohue said third-party litigation financing causes more frivolous claims and raises ethical questions. “In our business, we hear dumb ideas every day of the week,” he said. “But this one takes the cake.”
He also called for more progress on efforts to promote fiscal responsibility through entitlement reform and urged Congress to pass legislation that would combat rogue foreign Web sites that violate U.S. intellectual property rights.
Donohue said the Chamber will bring its agenda to the White House, Congress and the public over the year.
“We must not lose the spirit of enterprise and risk-taking that have served the country and our economy so well,” he said. “And if government starts removing the impediments that we have long identified as stifling growth and jobs, then we will be in a position in the business community to start taking far more risks and making more significant investments.”
National Law Journal photo by Diego M. Radzinschi.