House Republican leaders including John Boehner and Kevin McCarthy are meeting Wednesday with the Fix the Debt coalition and will remind the campaign's leaders that entitlement reforms must be part of the solution to the fiscal cliff.
Republicans on and off the Hill have complained that too much of the debate has focused on tax reform at the expense of a discussion on how to rein in spending on programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
“Right now there’s been a lot of discussion on the tax side but there needs to be a discussion about entitlement cuts," said a House GOP leadership aide. "Let’s not forget what the other side of a ‘balanced approach’ is. Everybody’s talking about the revenue and nobody’s talking about spending cuts.”
In a Monday statement, Boehner echoed the need for a "balanced approach ... that involves both major spending cuts and additional revenue via tax reform with lower tax rates."
Republicans off the Hill were more blunt.
“Obviously they’re not really being balanced in this,” said Tony Fratto, a former aide to President George W. Bush. “They’re not pushing for entitlement reform. They’re giving it lip service, but what they really, really want is Republicans to relent on marginal tax rates. They see Republican relenting on marginal tax rates as something that will put this all behind us.”
The participation of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt and Honeywell CEO David Cote, both of whom have close ties to President Obama, has also raised suspicion that the group is aligned with the White House, according to Steve Bell, senior director of economic policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center. Fix the Debt, he said, clearly has “tacit White House approval.”
Erica Elliott, a spokeswoman for McCarthy, who is organizing the meeting, said the meeting wasn't called to take the group to the woodshed. Rather, it is a followup meeting to a Nov. 13 meeting between McCarthy and coalition member Maya MacGuineas. GOP leaders are meeting with a number of stakeholder groups. For example, McCarthy is scheduled to meet with a group of small business owners on Dec. 5.
Wednesday's meeting between House GOP leaders and representatives from the Fix the Debt Coalition will take place at 10:30 a.m. in McCarthy's office and will include MacGuineas, Cote, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Allstate CEO Thomas Wilson, Airlines for America CEO Nick Calio, Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini and Fix the Debt co-founder Erskine Bowles.
Alex Roarty contributed.