U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk criticized the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a speech at the National Press Club on Tuesday, calling the lobbying behemoth "part of the problem" for its opposition to parts of health care reform and Wall Street reform.
During his remarks, delivered at the Chamber's "Next Steps for the World Trade Agenda" conference, Kirk said that trade policy needs to be crafted with American families -- "real people" -- in mind.
"I say this because as much as I appreciate the Chamber's support on trade -- sometimes it feels like you and me against the world -- you also need to remember some of those affected when you oppose initiatives," said Kirk, according to the text of his remarks. "I'm talking about health care, where many people were calling out for help and in some cases begging for their lives. I'm talking about financial reform, where some hurting Americans are asking for a financial system that gives them a fighting chance.
"There are all kinds of business reasons to want to shape or change health reform or financial reforms," Kirk continued. "But just as you say to trade skeptics -- those who refuse to be a constructive part of the process are part of the problem."
Kirk was not nearly as harsh as Treasury official Neal Wolin, who berated the Chamber for its lobbying efforts in a March speech at a Chamber event.