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President Obama and Vice President Biden meet with business leaders on the fiscal curb.
The Chamber of Commerce lost, and lost big, in this election when most of the Senate candidates they backed failed. They've apparently lost some of their luster with other business organizations because of it, and have been somewhat sidelined in the fiscal cliff artifice talks. They were left out of the higher profile meeting President Obama had two weeks ago with top corporate leaders but they did get their meeting this week. Their relevance, though, is in question.
Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, and other senior economic advisers listened as chamber executives, including Thomas J. Donohue, the group’s president, and Bruce Josten, its top lobbyist, laid out their ideas for raising significant revenue without necessarily raising taxes by expanding energy development.
“They wrote it down, but where that goes, I don’t know,” Mr. Josten said in an interview.
But Mr. Josten said that the White House advisers stressed that any debt deal would have to include increased taxes at the highest brackets and that if an agreement could not be reached, they were willing to risk the automatic spending cuts — the so-called fiscal cliff option — at the end of the year.
“They reiterated that they want the higher rates, and they’ll go over the cliff if they need to,” Mr. Josten said.
That, by the way, is the Chamber sending a signal to Wall Street and the markets to freak out to scare Democrats away from letting the end of the year come and go without a deal. We know Republicans are willing to do very real damage to the nation's economy in order to beat Obama and to protect tax cuts for the rich, and this is the Chamber helping them.
As for whether they really still have influence, or are being overshadowed by groups like the Bowles-Simpson "Fix the Debt" band of overpaid CEOs, the Chambers Josten says:
“You really think we aren’t going to have any influence?” asked Mr. Josten, the group’s lobbyist.
“If that’s the case, why would the White House want to meet with us?” he said. “My suspicion is that they know we’re going to have some influence on this. I don’t think there’s any member of Congress out there that doubts that.”
Given that the Chamber has fought every element of the president's agenda for the past four years, why the White House would want to meet with them now is a very good question.
Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Fri Nov 30, 2012 at 09:30 AM PST.