Tom Donahue Has Some Sharp Words for Ted Cruz

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO had some specific suggestions for the Tea Party’s newest star. By Eleanor Clift.

Getty; EPA/Landov

The smack down of Tea Party darling Ted Cruz continued Monday morning when U.S. Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Tom Donahue said he didn’t know Cruz, but watching the Texas senator from the perspective of someone who watches tennis, “If you’re going to run to the net all the time, you better have a lot of move to the right and the left, and I haven’t seen that yet.”

The silver-haired Donahue, who has headed the Chamber since 1997, told reporters at a breakfast meeting sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, that folks who identify with the Tea Party have raised really important issues, “but to advance these issues by putting the whole financial system at risk is not a good idea.” Donahue said he looked forward to working with Cruz, but when a reporter noted that, “the business community would like him to sit down and shut up,” Donahue responded dryly, “That might be one thing we can work on.”

Whatever one thinks of Cruz, he has accomplished an extraordinary feat in capturing national attention after only eight months in the senate. Donahue noted that for all the noise around Cruz, “he doesn’t have the votes to do what he wants.” If he’s serious about advancing legislative change, he’s going to have to talk to his peers in the senate, because that’s how you build coalitions—or that’s how it used to be done.

Cruz has a whole new playbook, and working with his colleagues in the senate, or with the GOP’s traditional allies in the business community, like Donahue, is not a strategy that Cruz is embracing. But his apostasy is not enough to shake the Chamber’s backing for the Republican-led House as a bulwark against one-party government with a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic-led senate. “We will spend what it takes,” Donahue said.