A handful of small business owners and executives left a meeting with senior House GOP leaders today unsettled about the prospects for a deal between the White House and lawmakers.
"I felt a little less optimistic than I was prior to understanding that neither side was together yet. … It just doesn't seem like the [White House] is willing to negotiate right now and that didn't make me feel warm and fuzzy to be honest with you," said Mitch Cohen, a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins franchise owner.
GOP House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy set up the meeting and included Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam and the newly elected Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers. They repeated their call for President Obama to take charge in the negotiations.
"The real thing is this takes leadership and we are hoping the president shows some leadership to solve this problem," McCarthy said.
Part of the problem, the businessmen said, was that the two parties just aren't talking.
"The sides are still pretty far apart. They need to get together to talk. They are not in the same room together," said Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox.
Getting to that point requires compromise, the business leaders said.
"I do think that the big part in this is compromise. We're missing that compromise. It doesn't seem like we're talking about the next steps," Cohen said.
Business leaders described the lawmakers as "candid" and said they asked the legislators to address government spending. On tax rates, Fox said that he would pay more in taxes, for instance, but the $250,000 level above which the White House is seeking higher rates is harmful to small business.
"The big stumbling block is that we're not talking about spending cuts. Speaking personally, I'm willing to pay more in personal tax. I am. But I'm much less inclined to do it if we're not controlling the spending side," Fox said.
The other attendees included: Todd Flemming president and CEO, Advantor Systems; Todd Kennedy, chief operating officer, The Kennedy Group; Dan McGregor, chairman of the board, former president, McGregor Metal; Chuck Rowe, president, Indmar Marine Engines; Brian Scott, president and CEO, SCECON; Jim Wordsworth, president, J.R.’s Goodtimes Inc.