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“The CEOs said, ‘These folks are pretty far apart, and there doesn’t seem to be a process,’” Engler said. “We felt as major employers ... this was important to be resolved. Everybody cared so much and felt this was so important they were willing to put their name on the line. ... They felt as citizens and business leaders in this country, you couldn’t be silent.”
Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and head of the Fix the Debt campaign, said her organization and the CEOs involved with it were “disappointed with the quality of the overall deal that members of Congress came up with to avoid the fiscal cliff.”
It didn’t touch entitlement spending or do enough to address the deficit, she said.
“I think the entire country was disappointed, and we would count the CEOs among those ranks,” MacGuineas added.
But, she said, the nation’s business leaders aren’t giving up. Not only did the group just sign on the 40 new executives, but she said she has just begun scheduling “a number of CEO fly-ins,” or lobbying visits. MacGuineas declined to say who, in or out of government, is planning on attending the sessions but said they will start in the coming weeks.
Fix the Debt will continue to push for a big deal on spending and debt, she added. “We’ve built up a very large organization with major resources to be used for something to fix the problem,” she said.
Members of Congress have criticized the business community in the wake of the bitter fiscal cliff standoff.
After the Senate approved its deal to avoid expiring tax breaks and automatic spending cuts, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said on CNBC that voting for it, which he did, was like “eating a you-know-what sandwich.” He also issued a warning to business leaders.
“What I would say also to the business community is don’t be a lackey for the president like so many business leaders were this last go around,” Corker said in the interview.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan issued a statement in December after reading a letter from more than 150 CEOs, distributed by the Business Roundtable, that warned of potentially grim economic consequences of going over the cliff and countenanced the possibility of increasing tax rates.
“Big business may support raising tax rates on small businesses, but I do not,” Camp said in his statement.
One Republican lobbyist who counts Fortune 500 companies among his clients said that some of the CEOs, “in my opinion, didn’t do themselves any favors, particularly with Republicans who tend to carry their water. I think a lot of them would have been better served to stay in the background.”
This lobbyist said staffers on Capitol Hill have made sure to register the displeasure of themselves and their bosses.
On the flip side, though, the business leaders had an obligation to their shareholders, and they were gravely concerned about the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff.
Michael Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, said the CEOs were just looking out for their corporate bottom lines.