“People say they’re for this new stakeholder economy, that they’re committed to sustainability,” said Mr. Hollender, now the chief executive of the liberal American Sustainable Business Council. “But at the same time, there is a system of incentives designed to maximize profits, and when those profits are threatened, businesses don’t like it.”
More mainline business groups recoiled at the accusation. Mr. Bradley, of the Chamber of Commerce, agreed that parts of the Democratic vision mirrored the business lobby’s longstanding wishes. Accessible child care is a high priority, he said, and addressing climate change with investments in clean energy is overdue.
“The administration was right to raise I.R.S. enforcement to close the tax gap,” he added. “We want a pro-growth tax code, but we want people to comply with that tax code.”
But he said the way Democrats were addressing those issues — by hastily lumping them into one voluminous $3.5 trillion measure to be passed through a fast-track process known as reconciliation — guaranteed opposition.
For instance, business groups had been working with lawmakers from both parties to try to create a paid family and medical leave program that would be paid for with a payroll tax, shared among businesses, workers and the government. To satisfy Mr. Biden’s pledge not to raise any taxes on people with incomes below $400,000, the payroll tax has disappeared, replaced by a variety of tax increases on rich people and corporations that are no longer connected to the program they are to finance.
“Paid family leave, outside a reconciliation context, would require intense negotiations and trade-offs, but it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibility that we could find a proposal that we could support,” Mr. Bradley said. “Inside reconciliation, it’s only getting worse.”
The Business Roundtable, which represents the chief executives of the nation’s largest corporations, expressed a similar desire. “There is strong bipartisan support for some of these policies, and we encourage Congress to take them up through that deliberative process, not via reconciliation,” the group said in a statement.