WASHINGTON â€” President Obama pledged Monday that his administration would be a strong partner with businesses in working to boost the American economy, and called for an equal effort to restore a fading sense of the American dream.
Seeking a fresh start with the nationâ€™s most powerful business lobby, Obamaâ€™s speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce included a focus on his administrationâ€™s new effort to ease â€œburdensome regulationsâ€ â€” a topic that has emerged as the top concern of Republicans and business advocates in Washington.
Obama sought to distinguish between inefficient government regulation of the kind he raised in his State of the Union speech â€” over things like salmon â€” and a more legitimate government role in areas such as the environment.
â€œEven as we work to eliminate burdensome regulations, Americaâ€™s businesses have a responsibility to recognize that there are some safeguards and standards that are necessary to protect the American people from harm or exploitation,â€ he said Monday. â€œFew of us would want to live in a society without the rules that keep our air and water clean … yet when standards like these have been proposed, opponents have often warned that they would be an assault on business and free enterprise.â€
The audience welcomed Obama with a standing ovation and laughed politely when he joked they â€œwould have gotten off on a better foot if I had brought over a fruitcake when we first moved in.â€
But there was little hearty applause, and after the president shook a few hands and walked back to the White House, Chamber members were guarded in their reviews of his message.
Matthew R. Shay, president of the National Retail Federation, said he welcomes Obamaâ€™s promise to overhaul the regulatory regime, but wondered how far the administration is willing to go.
â€œWe know some of the agencies have been carved out and are specifically exempt,â€ Shay said. â€œThatâ€™s going to be what the conversation is. What constitutes reform? And what constitutes regulation? Thatâ€™s where weâ€™re going to probably have some disagreements.â€