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The Fix the Debt campaign announced Thursday that 40 more corporate CEOs and business leaders had joined its cause. To some congressional denizens, that could translate into 40 more people with whom they are miffed.
Under the auspices of Fix the Debt and associations such as the Business Roundtable, CEOs flocked to Washington, D.C., last month for meetings with Obama administration officials and members of Congress urging a resolution to the fiscal cliff standoff.
By eventually blessing a deal that raised taxes on the country’s top income earners, the CEOs aggravated some congressional Republicans who had hoped any deal would include spending cuts, according to Capitol Hill and K Street sources.
As the executives plan their next rounds of meetings on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue and more fiscal policy standoffs loom, some sources say the CEOs’ clout in typically friendly Republican offices may be waning. Leaders of the CEO-backed groups say the executives simply felt compelled to help jump-start lagging negotiations during which the U.S. economy hung in the balance.
“To a lot of Republicans, they’re deeply disappointed that the CEOs managed to position themselves as champions of tax increases,” one high-ranking GOP leadership aide said. “These are adults who didn’t seem to get the very obvious joke that the White House was using them as cover for tax increases while they had no real intention of cutting spending.”
This aide and other Hill colleagues, as well as numerous downtown sources, said many lawmakers and staffers believe the CEOs were cozying up to President Barack Obama in the hopes of positioning themselves well in a broader debate over tax reform.
Another Hill aide said the Obama administration manipulated the CEOs, who now may have lost some leverage in the coming debates. “Do we trust that they won’t get used again? Probably not,” the staffer said.
But former Michigan Gov. John Engler, who heads the Business Roundtable, pointed out that the CEOs of his organization supported the deal but did not broker it.
Republicans including Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky did help craft it and urged their party’s support.
“None of our CEOs were able to cut any deals or for that matter weren’t asked to cut any deals,” Engler said. “We weren’t at the table.”
He said the CEOs felt compelled to make sure policymakers understood the gravity of the fiscal situation. Executives who weighed in during the fiscal cliff debate included Jeffrey Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.