CEOs abandoned President Trump's advisory councils this week, but Republicans believe that won't derail their quest to pass tax legislation this year.
Even as some Republicans criticized Trump for his comments about the weekend violence in Charlottesville, Va., key players suggested that the push for tax reform would proceed apace.
Big businesses are putting "100 percent support behind, basically, the consolidated Republican position," said Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who as head of Americans for Tax Reform has pushed for a reform of the tax code for years.
"This means everything to them," Norquist added, suggesting that while CEOs might no longer appear in ads supporting a Trump tax plan, they still will fund the ads.
The White House business councils that disbanded were made of prominent business leaders such as Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, Indra Nooyi of Pepsi, and Inge Thulin of 3M.
Now they all have distanced themselves from the White House, or been distanced by Trump's abrupt decision to dissolve the councils amid defections.
That won't prevent them from engaging with the White House in other capacities, though, said Gary Stibel, CEO of the New England Consulting Group and a consultant to major brands. "It's not going to hamper them one bit," he said.
The businesses that participated in the councils, which met at the White House occasionally or, in the case of the infrastucture panel, never, are represented in Washington and wield influence through other venues. For instance, Dimon, Nooyi, and Thulin are members of the Business Roundtable, an advocacy group involved in the tax reform push, with Dimon heading it.
In Washington, businesses are represented by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, banks by the American Bankers Association and others, manufacturers by the National Association of Manufacturers, and so on. Many major businesses also have permanent presences in the Capitol to lobby Congress. One business whose CEO left the council said it wouldn't affect the company's normal relations with the Trump administration through such groups.
As for congressional Republicans, they have said that Trump's descent into one of his most radioactive controversies yet won't hurt the main priority on the agenda.
"I think that doesn't affect our ability to get our agenda done," said Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, talking about the dissolution of Trump's business councils Wednesday on Fox News. "The agenda's about the American people, it's not about CEOs."
Trump's comments did earn rebukes from Republican leaders. In his home state of Tennessee, Sen. Bob Corker questioned his ability to succeed, telling local media that Trump "has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful."
And one episode Wednesday did suggest that investors are vulnerable to scares about the administration. In the mid-morning, a rumor circulated briefly on Twitter that Trump's economic adviser, former Goldman Sachs president Gary Cohn, was going to resign out of discontent with Trump's remarks. The White House later batted down the rumor, but markets appeared to dip briefly on the unfounded speculation.
Nevertheless, top Republicans have suggested that the tax reform process is effectively quarantined from Trump's divisiveness on other topics.
Speaking Wednesday at the Reagan Ranch in Southern California, House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas suggested that the tax reform effort wouldn't suffer from the criticism directed at Trump, because the goal of simpler and lower taxes is a unifying one.
For now, at least, that logic will hold for the countless business interests in Washington that are eager for tax reform. They are still on board for a legislative effort on taxes, but they just couldn't let their CEOs suffer the consequences of being connected to Trump as he danced around the topic of white supremacy.
When it comes to a consideration like white supremacy, which the vast majority of the public disapproves of, big businesses cannot stand by, Stibel said. "You simply cannot afford to be taking a position or align yourself with position that even a third or 40 percent of the population is opposed to."
"I don't think the business community has left his plan," Trump campaign tax adviser Larry Kudlow said Wednesday on CNBC, downplaying the exodus from the councils. "Fine, these things happen."