House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., defended President Obama's outreach to the business community the morning after the president's speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce enraged liberals who worried Obama was cozying up to Wall Street and major corporations.
"I tell people the Democratic Party sees themselves as the party of workers. But if we're going to be the party of workers, we have to be the party of employers," Hoyer said on MSNBC's Morning Joe today. "People have to understand that synergy. I think it's appropriate the president reach out."
Monday's speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce marked a rhetorical about-face for the president, who just a few months earlier was attacking the powerful business lobbying group as it was helping to bankroll scores of Republican midterm victories.
Since November, Obama has made a series of moves aimed at building ties with a business community that grew estranged from the White House over the president's first two years in office. But his gestures, which included appointing former JPMorgan executive William Daley as his new chief of staff and launching an effort to streamline government regulations, have infuriated liberal supporters, who view these moves as capitulations.
Adam Green, leader of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said that Obama’s effort to win over the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups “sends a signal that they learned the exact wrong lesson from 2010 when many former Obama voters weren’t inspired to return to the polls. This strategy will both turn off independent voters in 2012 and be disastrous for our economy.”
Not all liberals panned the speech, though. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised Obama's rhetoric as a call for American business to share their success with the American worker. "I thought he gave a great speech," Trumka said today on MSNBC's Daily Rundown. "He said you have to ask yourself what you can do for America, what you can do to hire more Americans, what you can do to help the American economy, and what you can do to invest in America."
Hoyer framed Obama's efforts to forge a closer relationship with business as critical to his goal of making America more competitive. "The president wants to double exports," he said. "The way we'll do that is to have a working relationship between business and the Congress and the president."