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OpinionColumnistsDan Janison

GOP, Biden try to nudge corporate America in opposite directions

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) at the Conservative Political

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February. Credit: The Washington Post / Jabin Botsford

Anyone who sees corporate America as a monolith that always gets its way with the federal government might wish to consider the news out of Washington, D.C., where rival elected officials are trying to prod Big Business in different ways.

Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida sounded as if he was vaguely threatening companies that oppose Georgia's voting restrictions when he said they face "massive backlash" after next year's midterm elections.

"You will rue the day when it hits you. That day is November 8, 2022. That is the day Republicans will take back the Senate and the House. It will be a day of reckoning," Scott said in Monday's Fox Business op-ed, written as a letter to "Woke Corporate America."

Was he sounding a populist note, or trying to prod players in the private sector into line with his party? Either way, Scott wasn't alone in carrying the message from the state where Donald Trump holds forth from electoral exile after losing the White House.

Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican said to be eyeing national office, was asked during Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" about Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta over Georgia's controversial voting laws.

"I guess they have the right to do what they want, but if you’re gonna stick your beak into issues that don’t directly concern you, then I think elected officials are then gonna stick their beak into issues that may not concern them," DeSantis said.

Democratic President Joe Biden seems to be buttonholing business leaders to tamp down what might otherwise be loud resistance to his bid to fund a massive renovation of the nation's public facilities by boosting the corporate tax rate.

Biden also announced plans to "recoup" into the U.S. corporate profits now derived overseas. All that is a rollback of massive corporate tax cuts enacted in 2017 by the Republicans. At the time, no daylight was visible between large businesses and the top elected officials.

Aware of Republican-business alienations, White House staff have kept the leading banks and business-lobbying groups briefed on their plans. The business class doesn’t seem to be reacting as if they rule the roost.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said she has spoken with dozens of executives about hiking the corporate rate from its current 21%.

"Some have said they’re fine with the tax increases as proposed [28%]; others have said they’re expecting a corporate tax increase" and were relieved that Biden is not pushing for 35%, the rate before the 2017 tax code change, Raimondo told The Washington Post.

The Democrats' pressure on the private sector appears economic while the Republicans' push sounds cultural. The question going forward is how business support for different candidates might change and how public policies might be affected.