The role of the CEOs, who in some cases have suggested that a final deal may have to include tax increases, has sparked criticism from some quarters. Dan Danner, president and CEO of the National Federation of Independent Business, called Obama’s meeting with the executives “an insult to the business owners who create two-thirds of net new jobs.”
Danner said in a statement that “small-business owners are deeply disappointed that, once again, they are not at the table for discussions that will have a huge impact on their bottom lines and their ability to run and grow their businesses.”
Miller downplayed the friction, saying that “too much is being made of the differences between factions within the business community.” The Roundtable argues that lawmakers should enact a short-term deal to avoid automatic spending cuts and tax increases and raise the debt ceiling into 2013 so that Congress can debate tax and entitlement programs outside the lame-duck session.
Other business leaders have echoed that view. Even the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent tens of millions on ads attacking Obama and other Democratic candidates in the recent elections, has avoided issuing ultimatums.
“We have not been proscriptive,” said Rob Nichols, president and CEO of the Financial Services Forum, which shares some members with the Roundtable. “We have not been drawing lines in the sand. We have been encouraging policymakers to come together in a bipartisan way to arrive at a deal.”
Overhauling the tax system and entitlements “needs to be developed in a thoughtful manner, and not under the gun in a lame-duck session,” said Dorothy Coleman, vice president of tax and domestic economic policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, where Engler served as president and CEO before joining the Roundtable in early 2011.
Engler, who was traveling and not available to comment, told The New York Times that “everything is on the table.” By contrast, GOP leaders on Capitol Hill, and leading anti-tax lobbyists, have rejected out of hand Obama’s plan to end Bush-era tax cuts for earners making $250,000 or more.
Despite tensions between the Obama White House and many CEOs during the presidential campaign, Engler has struck a deliberately conciliatory tone. On Election Day, he congratulated Obama.
“It isn’t about drawing lines in the sand,” Miller said. “It’s about drawing lines toward economic growth, the sooner the better. Because there is a lot of capital sitting on the sidelines waiting for Congress and the administration to come to some kind of agreement about taxes, the budget and entitlement reform.”