TN business leaders grow restless over shutdown

(The Tennessean- Nashville) In nearly 30 years of business, Brian Anderson had never called a congressman — until last week.

An order of protective sleeves intended for use in nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers sat ready to go in the Nashville offices of his company, Frham Safety Products. But the shipment had been grounded by the partial federal shutdown.

"If they're not allowing shipments to the Department of Defense, that's a major concern," said Anderson, the company's director of sales. "We're just saying, come on. Nobody's concerned about who's been at fault in the past. We need to resolve this."

Some business leaders have been among the biggest critics of President Barack Obama's economic policies and his signature law, the Affordable Care Act. But as the shutdown has stretched into a second week and default on the nation's debt looms, many groups and executives have grown frustrated with the tactics being used to try to force change.

From Washington to Nashville, organizations and business executives are pressing for an end to the budget and debt impasses, arguing that the fight has made an already bad situation worse.

Many still would like to see federal spending cut and the health care law delayed or repealed. But they fear more that the shutdown and debt ceiling fight could do irreparable harm to the economy and their bottom lines.

"No one has said this is a price worth paying," said Catherine Glover, president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The views of Tennessee's business community appear to match those of voters — who have indicated in polls that they largely blame Republicans for the crisis — and businesspeople nationwide.

Some of the Republican Party's most ardent allies, including the National Retail Federation, the National Federation of IndependentBusinesses and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, took the unusual step this week of publicly criticizing House Republicans for the shutdown and debt ceiling fight. They indicated they could shift their support away from tea party Republicans unless the dispute ends soon.

Pressure mounts

Those statements have put added pressure on Republican leaders to end the stalemate. On Friday, a group of Republican senators met with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House to discuss a plan to trade an extension to the debt ceiling and a temporary spending resolution for an agreement to form a commission on federal spending.

House Republicans, including U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, and Diane Black, R-Gallatin, have pointed to the individual spending bills that the House has passed since the crisis began as evidence of their concern about the impact of the shutdown on their constituents.

Robert Jameson, a spokesman for U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, said most small-business owners are telling the South Pittsburg Republican to hold the line.

"Overwhelmingly, 90 percent of the small businesses are telling us they're certainly inconvenienced, but it pales in comparison to what would happen if 'Obamacare' is implemented."

Lisa Quigley, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, said calls to the Nashville Democrat's office have been different.

"There's a lot of frustration," she said.

Business leaders interviewed this week largely expressed that sentiment. Some have shared their views with Congress.

"I don't think the position of business is any great mystery to Congress," said Charlie Howorth, executive director of the Tennessee chapter of the Business Roundtable. "Many have expressed that this is not the way to go about doing business."

A bigger threat

Brad Dunn, chairman of the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce, said members of his group have weathered the shutdown but have concerns about the debt ceiling debate.

"Nobody likes to see anybody default on debt," he said.

Businesspeople in Middle Tennessee generally agreed that the Affordable Care Act should be revised, if not repealed. But Anderson, echoing the views of others, said the shutdown represents a more immediate threat to Frham Safety, which specializes in providing nuclear and industrial safety equipment to other businesses and themilitary.

The sleeves that have sat unsent are supposed to shield sailors from radiation when they reach into spaces to perform maintenance. Anderson said the U.S. Navy told them it could not accept the shipment until it had been reviewed by quality-assurance inspectors, who have been grounded until the shutdown ended.

A call to Cooper's office led to those inspectors' being authorized to travel to Nashville later this month, but the incident led Anderson to worry about larger shipments Frham Safety has scheduled.

"We don't cry wolf," he said. "But if this same thing keeps happening and this keeps going on, then we do have problems."

Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or, or follow him on Twitter @chassisk.


To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment