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ESG Battle Brews Between House GOP, Chamber of Commerce

Government Affairs

The hyper-partisan polarization over environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing strategies continued Monday with news of a growing “war” between GOP House leadership and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While the Chamber’s endorsement of Democrats in the midterms was primarily to blame, its support for ESG was also mentioned. 

CNBC, citing an Intercept report from last year, said, “Republicans plan to investigate the Chamber as GOP lawmakers take on anyone who supports President Joe Biden’s push for more ESG regulations.”

Further muddying the issue, CNBC said the Chamber plans to sue the Securities and Exchange Commission if it goes forward with its climate change-related disclosure rule, citing a recent report from The Daily Caller. 

“Republican House lawmakers are drafting questions to send to the Chamber in the coming weeks, asking about its stance on ESG issues as well as questioning some of the group’s own conduct, including reportedly allowing former Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue to use the organization’s corporate jet for personal trips, according to lawmakers and advisors aiming to probe the organization,” the network added. “These people declined to be named in order to speak freely about private discussions.”

Chamber Spokesman Tim Doyle hit back, claiming the group’s policies are more in line with House Republicans than Democrats, mentioning its support for lower taxes, reduced spending, reduced regulation, and other issues. 

“We do disagree with those who believe the Chamber should become a single-party partisan organization, and we recognize that difference has created some tension,” Doyle said. “We will continue, however, to do what we have done for over 110 years, and that is advance the free-market priorities of the American business community.”

The animosity started after the group endorsed 23 House Democrats in the 2020 election cycle when Republicans failed to regain the majority. The Chamber reportedly endorsed 23 House Republican candidates and four Democrats during the 2022 election fight.

It’s also part of larger Republican effort against ESG.

Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) is spearheading a measure in the House, and Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), is doing so in the Senate to reintroduce a Congressional Review Act (CRA) measure to nullify ESG use in retirement plans. Every Republican Senator and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) support the resolution.

In late January, a coalition of 24 states filed suit to stop the Labor Department’s ESG regulation just days before it went into effect. 

The coalition, led by Texas Attorney General Paxton, argued the 2022 Rule “undermines key protections for retirement savings of 152 million workers — approximately two-thirds of the U.S. adult population and totaling $12 trillion in assets — in the name of promoting ESG factors in investing, including the Biden Administration’s stated desire to address climate change.”

House Republicans also said they will establish a working group to “combat the threat to our capital markets posed by those on the far-left pushing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) proposals,” Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, announced Friday.

“Progressives are trying to do with American businesses what they already did to our public education system — using our institutions to force their far-left ideology on the American people,” McHenry said in a statement. “Their latest tool in these efforts is environmental, social, and governance proposals. This is why I am creating a Republican ESG working group led by Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chair Bill Huizenga.