Republican-backing business groups are nervous the politicians they helped elect might be so enthusiastic about cutting spending that they'll actually hurt business. The House's struggle to pass a handful of bills is helping to clarify the point where being pro-free market stops being anti-government, The New York Times' Jonathan Weisman reports. Among the things that businesses like and very-limited-government-types in office do not are:

  • The Export-Import Bank. This allows people overseas to get loans to buy American stuff. "There is not a free-market system that operates like that. It does not exist. We need the Ex-Im Bank, period," Air Tractor vice-president David Ickert told the Times
  • The transportation bill. The Senate passed a two-year extension of the legislation, but the house hasn't been able to pass even a 90-day or 60-day extension. One problem is that highway bills were usually paid for by the gas tax, but cars are more efficient, so the tax is producing less revenue for the government. Some conservatives don't like the amount of spending in the bill. Business leaders told The Times that few government-backed projects could get started on without long-term funding.

Some of the worried business groups Weisman talked to are big supporters of Republicans. Interestingly, Among them was John Engler, current president of the Business Roundtable and former Republican governor of Michigan. He said of Congress, "We’re letting people say it’s hard and so we won’t go forward. That is what the business community cannot understand." Engler co-wrote an op-ed published in Politico Thursday titled, "Streamline the federal government." His co-author is Jeff Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, and they argue that business and government can work together to make the federal bureaucracy more efficient and " a true partner for U.S. companies, small and large, that will be the source of jobs for years to come." The article discusses congressional inaction on waste-cutting recommendations, concluding,"In the weeks ahead, we hope that both parties in Congress can come together to seize this chance." 

The first half of last year, President Obama tried to reposition himself as a friend of business; during the second half, he began campaigning against a do-nothing Congress. We suspect some of his general election year message will combine the two.