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Washington Matters


The Obama-Business Courtship

Mark Willen



Want an early clue on how well business groups and the Obama administration will get along? Watch what happens to the loss carryback provisions proposed by Obama -- at the urging of business -- as part of the stimulus bill. They would allow businesses to use losses from 2008 and 2009 to offset gains in the previous five years, instead of two. House Democrats don't like the idea at all and Senate Democrats don't like it much. How hard Obama fights to keep it -- and whether he succeeds -- will be a key barometer of things to come. 

So far, so good, business groups say. They're surprisingly encouraged by the amount of access and consultation that's already taken place in regard to the stimulus and the bailout. Bruce Josten, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce vice president for governmental affairs, told the Washington Times that the chamber has met over 20 times already with Obama aides. And it's not just for show. He says the new administration is listening and cooperating. It may pay off for both sides. So many of the chamber's ideas have been included in the stimulus proposal that the chamber may help lobby for Republican support. 

That doesn't mean all will be roses. The chamber, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents smaller firms, will still have plenty of differences with Obama policy going forward. But if they get a real seat at the table, it will go a long way toward building a cooperative relationship on some important issues, such as immigration reform. And if Obama is willing to fight -- and able to win -- on the loss carryback provision, it will send an important early signal.





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