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WASHINGTON — Immigration overhaul: deadlocked. Highway bill funding: stalled. Export-Import Bank reauthorization: imperiled.

The failure of Congress to act so far on these and other issues has undermined investments, cost jobs and helped fuel a "sputtering" economic recovery, according to Jay Timmons, president of the National Association of Manufacturers. And he says the business community can no longer rely only on the Republican Party to deliver on its priorities.

Timmons, who once ran the GOP's Senate campaign committee, said on USA TODAY's Capital Download that business interests need to begin backing candidates and turning out voters not only in general elections but also in Democratic and Republican primaries. That could help counter the rise of "extremist" voices in both parties — from populism in the left to Tea Party forces on the right.

"They need to be involved in the primary process," he told the weekly video newsmaker series Monday. "That means educating their employees ... and making sure they get out and vote in these primary elections. The primary election process has really shrunk the electorate. There are really very, very few people who participate in primaries these days. The most motivated folks are the ones that tend to get out and vote."

He cited as a model the way business interests backed Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran, who this month won a hard-fought primary runoff against a Tea Party-allied challenger, Chris McDaniel.

The notion that the well-financed business community and its legion of lobbyists have trouble being heard on Capitol Hill might seem far-fetched to some, but Timmons' comments reflect concern about rising resistance to its agenda within the GOP. Fault lines have opened between the pro-business mainstream and anti-establishment voices leery of Wall Street, big banks and what Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and some other rising stars decry as "crony capitalism."

That's bad news for manufacturing and other interests, Timmons said. "Over time, the business community started to ally itself with just one party, because some more extreme elements were taking over the other party. We're starting to see that happen in the other party now, so both parties have extreme elements that they have to deal with that tend to be anti-business."

Governmental gridlock has had an economic effect, he said.

"We're sputtering along," he said. "There are pockets of growth but it is not growth and it is not economic opportunity that is shared broadly by all Americans. If we didn't have the uncertainty that we have, created not only by Congress but by the administration through its regulatory process, I'm very confident we would have had more investment by business, which would have led to more jobs and more opportunities for Americans. It also would have led to investments by foreign companies that would like to create facilities here in this country and create jobs for Americans. ...

"When I travel around the country and I talk to CEOs, there is a reluctance to really invest in America right now because of this fear that we're not capable of governing in the current situation."

He expressed hope that the November midterms will be "clarifying."

"When folks go home in August in particular, or when they go home in October for the election cycle, they're going to hear a lot from the American people about how frustrated they are with the process, how frustrated they are with things not getting done, how frustrated they are not only with the other party but the party they support."

That, he said, might convince House and Senate leaders that "we've got to do things a little bit differently."

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