As House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama wrangle over how to avoid the fiscal cliff, the business lobbying community is showing signs of splintering over tax revenues.
The Business Roundtable is pressing lawmakers and the president to reach a deal as soon as possible. On Monday, the group of influential CEOs circulated a letter to the Capitol and White House urging leaders to compromise, including on entitlement reform but also on tax rates.
It's the talk of compromise over tax rates, though, that lit a fuse on K Street among business advocacy groups.
“It’s easy for corporate CEOs to say that individual tax rates ought to be raised; their companies don’t pay taxes at the individual rate," said the National Federation of Independent Business's Dan Danner said in a statement. “It’s easy for big business to point to another group and say ‘raise their taxes."
The International Franchise Association also lashed out at the CEOs over tax rates.
"It is unfortunate that America’s largest CEOs, many of which have been courted by President Obama’s recent charm offensive, seem so out of touch with what this country needs right now—more jobs," the IFA's Steve Caldeira said in a statement.
From the BRT's point of view, though, the threat to the economy if Washington does not get a deal is too much to risk, even though executives acknowledged they favor lower taxes and less government spending. But the sooner leaders can cut a deal, the better, they argue.
"I actually think delaying this doesn't do any good to anybody," General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt told reporters on Monday.
While K Street occupied itself with an internecine argument over tax rates, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., downplayed the significance of the Roundtable's latest position. "I'm always happy to hear from people," he said. But, it's the president and the speaker faced with hashing out a deal—not lobbyists—and Cole underscored the tone the speaker adopted when he spoke on Monday.
"The thing that would make a deal more likely is if the president would get serious," said Cole, who stood by his recent comments urging his party to accept higher tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent.