By David Lawder
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said it is backing Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema with campaign contributions as a reward for their opposition to some of President Joe Biden's legislative initiatives and for trying to work with Republicans.
In disclosures made public on Thursday, the Chamber said its political action committee during the first quarter made about $17,000 worth of contributions to the two senators and nine members of the House of Representatives.
These included congressmen Carlos Gimenez of Florida and Steve Chabot of Ohio, two Republicans who voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results after the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Following the attack, the Chamber, the largest lobbying group in the United States, said https://www.uschamber.com/issue-brief/memo-political-support-candidates-light-of-events-of-january-6th it would evaluate Congress members on the "totality" of their actions, including working in a bipartisan manner.
"The U.S. Chamber supports elected officials based on their position on issues important to the business community and their commitment to governing," a Chamber spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.
"This quarter we were pleased to support Republicans and Democrat members who have demonstrated a willingness to do the hard work of coming together and finding solutions to the problems facing our country."
Gimenez and Chabot were among 139 House Republican members and eight Republican senators who voted against certifying the 2020 election results after Biden, a Democrat, beat Republican Donald Trump by over 7 million votes to take a 306-232 Electoral College victory.
Chabot is a pro-business Republican long supported by the Chamber, while Gimenez is the former Miami-Dade County mayor who was endorsed by Trump in 2020 and took back a House seat previously occupied by a Democrat.
Some big U.S. companies cut off donations to Republicans who supported Trump's attempt to overturn the results, Reuters reported in February.
The Chamber's overall lobbying purse is funded by its corporate members, but the political action committee donations come from Chamber executives, staff, board members and other individuals associated with the group.
KEY DEMOCRATS BLOCKING BIDEN PLANS
Manchin, who is from West Virginia, and Sinema, who is from Arizona, are opposed to ending the Senate's filibuster https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-congress-filibuster-explainer/what-is-the-u-s-senate-filibuster-and-why-is-everyone-talking-about-it-idUSKBN2B921T, a custom that requires a 60-vote majority to advance most legislation. The Chamber also has called for preserving the filibuster to require Democrats, who control a single-vote Senate majority, to seek support from Republicans on major non-budgetary initiatives.
Manchin has emerged as a key barrier to Democrats using the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris to pass key party priorities in the Senate without any Republican support, including Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure investment plan.
Manchin and Sinema also opposed Biden's plan to include an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour as a part of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package - a provision opposed by the Chamber, which said it hurts businesses struggling with the pandemic.
The Chamber opposes Biden's plan to pay for the investments with corporate tax hikes. Manchin has rejected Biden's proposed 28% corporate tax rate, saying 25% is more appropriate. The senator opposed the Trump administration's 2017 corporate tax cut to 21%. HISTORY OF BACKING REPUBLICANS The Chamber has overwhelmingly supported Republicans for decades, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2020 election, over 75% of its donations went to Republicans; in 2016, more than 95% did.
The Chamber also supported two Republican House members who voted in favor of impeaching Trump in January, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio and freshman Peter Meijer of Michigan. Both are facing primary challenges for 2022 elections.
The Chamber also said it made contributions to pro-trade Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar, who fended off a liberal primary challenger last year, and Republican House members Dan Crenshaw and Don Bacon, and freshmen Nancy Mace and Young Kim.
(Reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Gerry Doyled, Heather Timmons and Jonathan Oatis)