In it, but not of it. TPM DC
Josten was joined on the call by trade association leaders representing manufacturing, wholesalers, retail and housing. Each told reporters that the health care bill favored by Democrats would the loss of thousands of American jobs.
"These bills are job killers," National Retail Federation vice president Neil Trautwein said flatly. "Retail simply cannot afford any higher benefit costs or burdensome mandates."
Though all the associations on the call as well as the Chamber expressed support for health care reform as a concept, each claimed that the way the Democrats have gone about it will mean nothing less than kicking the nation's economy when it's down.
"The construction industry is in a very fragile state," Geoff Burr, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, said. "To be looking over the horizon at the potential of costly employer mandates and increased taxes...is daunting."
Burr said the Democratic reforms will mean fewer new jobs created by his industry and "less employment" in he housing sector overall.
Though the industry reps and the Chamber are on their face non-partisan, it was no secret on the call which party's take on the health care debate American business favors. Mixed in with the criticism of the reform bills themselves were attacks on how the Democrats in Washington plan to pass them.
Josten dismissed President Obama's recent focus on health insurance rate increases to build support for reform as essentially a political gimmick used by the White House to turn the health insurance industry into the bad guy.
Josten said health insurance profits are relatively low -- "about 2.2 cents on the dollar" -- and that insurers have actually been proponents of reform in the past.
"It's easy for the President to pick somebody," Josten said, "and he picked [insurers] to vilify."
"I'm not sure what he hopes to accomplish by that," he continued. "Someone's going to have to administer this system."
Jade West, a vice president at the national association of wholesalers, attacked the plan among some Democrats in the Senate to use reconciliation to alter the bill passed on Christmas Eve so it more closely matches portions of the House bill passed earlier last year.
Democrats "have rejected any number of reasonable health care reform ideas, ignored the public which opposes their mission, and now threatens to twist the rules of the Senate to effectively silence all dissent," she said. "It is time for Washington to start over and get it right."
In one of the ads the business groups are launching soon, reconciliation is also a focus.
"We thought Washington understood," the ad script reads in part. "But this week Congress is trying to use special rules... to ram through their same trillion dollar health care bill."
See the ad: