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Obama to address U.S. Chamber of Commerce next month

January 5, 2011 |  2:36 pm

Continuing his efforts to reach out to the business community, President Obama will give a long-awaited speech to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce early next month, the White House announced Wednesday.

Obama and officials at the chamber have been sharply at odds throughout his presidency.

Obama administration officials have criticized the organization's opposition to major White House initiatives and its political spending to help Republicans. The chamber has hammered the White House for its economic policies, and has huge banners spelling out "JOBS" on the front of its ornate building, clearly visible at the White House about a block away.

But both sides are trying to mend relations.

Obama has tried to change his tone and approach on business issues after congressional Democrats sustained huge losses in last fall's midterm elections. He held a high-profile meeting last month with chief executives of 20 major companies.

And the chamber last fall invited Obama to give a speech to the business organization. White House and chamber officials have been working for weeks to arrange a date for Obama to make the short walk from the White House. They announced it would happen Feb. 7.

"The president will discuss his commitment to growing the economy and making America more competitive and the importance of working together to create jobs," said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. . . .

Chamber officials said they wanted to work with the White House.

“We look forward to hosting the president next month to discuss jobs and the economy," said Tom Collamore, senior vice president of communications. "This remains the top priority of the chamber and the business community, and we’re committed to working together to put Americans back to work.”

The organization, which touts itself as the world's largest business federation, with more than 3 million members, has been an outspoken opponent of Obama's healthcare overhaul and many other top administration initiatives. The chamber was a political force in the midterm elections, pouring millions of dollars into the campaigns of Republicans opposed to Obama's policies.

Obama and administration officials have pushed back, accusing the chamber of failing to represent the interests of businesses. Last year, Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin gave a speech at the chamber and accused officials there of lying about the effect of the sweeping rewrite of financial regulations in a $3-million campaign against key parts of the bill.

But some Democrats complained last fall that the White House attacks on the chamber were going too far. And after the election, Obama acknowledged he had not found "the right tone publicly" to encourage businesses to hire.

 -- Jim Puzzanghera

Photo: Banners spelling out "JOBS" on the front of the headquarters of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Credit: AFP/Getty Images.