After the State of American Business 2015 address, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue and fellow Commerce executive Bruce Josten elaborate on issues during a news conference. (Bailey Williams/MNS)

After the State of American Business 2015 address, U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas Donohue elaborated on issues during a news conference. (Bailey Williams/MNS)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce announced its 2015 business agenda Wednesday morning, calling Republican and Democratic politicians to rally around continuing economic growth in part by approving legislation on the Keystone XL pipeline.

During the annual “State of American Business 2015,” Thomas Donohue, the business lobbying group’s president and CEO, began by saying he anticipated the economy would continue growing this year.

Donohue said he hoped politicians could rally around “a bipartisan cause”, which he defined as continued economic growth.

The speech servers to set the powerful association’s yearly agenda, announce new plans and policies, and comment on the status of the economy.

Donohue suggested ways to use trade and optimize energy sources to grow the economy.

Chamber members are agitating that one of these energy sources be the Keystone XL pipeline, which Donohue said the group will aggressively support.

Republicans, who control both the Senate and House of Representatives, set passing legislation on the Keystone XL Pipeline at the forefront of their agenda this session.

President Barack Obama, however, has already threatened to veto any legislation on the 1,200-mile pipeline.

Jeff Gohringer, a press spokesman at the League of Conservative Voters, said Republicans’ choice of focusing on the pipeline reflects whose side they are on. Instead of representing and advocating for the American people, Republicans were siding with polluters, he said.

The debate involves allowing TransCanada to build a pipeline which would allow oil to be sold around the world originating from Canadian oil fields connected to Nebraska where pipelines will transfer oil elsewhere.

“We are going to keep pushing on the Keystone pipeline. The administration’s own facts clearly show that this project will create jobs and energy security without harming the environment,” Donohue said.

After the speech, Donohue called the Keystone pipeline debate “a political joke.” Beyond environmental claims, Donohue said the United States is treating Canada poorly with continued debate rather than action.

During last year’s annual address, Donohue called for action on the debated pipeline as well.

“We have idled American workers and deeply offended our most important ally for the sake of domestic politics. We are calling on the Obama administration to put American jobs before special interest politics and approve this project now,” Donohue said in 2014.

Some advocacy groups continue to warn of the environmental and economic harm the pipeline could cause.

Dan Becker, the director of the Safe Climate Campaign, which lobbies on environmental issues, said Americans need to understand that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is one of the most “prociferous anti-environmental groups.”

Approving the pipeline “would be a big mistake for America” because it will in part increase global warming pollution, Becker said.

Whit Jones, campaign director of the Energy Action Coalition, also said approving Keystone is a terrible idea both economically and environmentally.

Approving Keystone benefits oil companies, while harming a number of people who rely on the agricultural land, Jones said.

In addition to Keystone XL pipeline legislation, Donohue underscored making use of domestic energy resources could also boost the economy by creating jobs and affordable energy for Americans and revenue for the government.

Despite potential gridlock with a Republican-controlled Congress and a Democratic president, Donohue spoke optimistically at both his address and news conference .

“Divided government is not an excuse to do nothing. It’s an opportunity to work together,” Donohue said.


Chamber of Commerce President and CEO gives State of American Business address from Medill Washington on Vimeo.