President Barack Obama’s efforts to engage business leaders in negotiations to avoid the year-end fiscal cliff have included unannounced private talks with top financial executives at the White House.
On Nov. 16, the same day Obama met with congressional leaders, he sat down with about a dozen financial services executives in the Roosevelt Room, where they were meeting with senior administration officials including Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner.
The session was part of a series of consultations Obama has had with outside groups aimed at pressuring Congress to strike a deal to avert more than $600 billion of automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect in January.
The group included Blackstone Group LP (BX:US) President Tony James; Evercore Partners Inc. (EVR:US) chairman Roger Altman; Robert Wolf, chief executive officer of 32 Advisors LLC; Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC managing principal Mark Gallogly; Glenn Hutchins, co-founder of Silver Lake Management LLC; Marc Lasry, founder of Avenue Capital Group LLC; Blair Effron, co-founder of Centerview Partners LLC; and Orin Kramer, general partner at Boston Provident Partners LP, according to administration officials and a participant in the session.
The meeting, held across from the Oval Office, wasn’t on the president’s public schedule. He dropped in on the 90-minute session as it was about halfway through.
Taxes and Cuts
It was called by Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to the president, and among the other administration officials present were Vice President Joe Biden, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Jeffrey Zients, acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, according to White House officials, who asked for anonymity because the meeting wasn’t publicly announced.
The talks included a discussion of cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Obama emphasized his drive to extend existing tax rates for middle-income Americans while letting those for top earners rise when they expire at the end of the year, according to Wolf.
“In our meeting the president was clear that the numbers do not add up without the Bush tax extension ending for the top two percent,” said Wolf, former chairman of UBS Americas. “He was equally clear that he thought giving clarity for the other 98 percent of the nation that they would not be paying higher taxes was critical in keeping confidence during the holiday season.”
The president is scheduled to hold another meeting today with business leaders, including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) CEO Lloyd Blankfein.
Many of the participants at the Nov. 16 meeting have been among Obama’s staunchest supporters on Wall Street and top campaign donors.
Biden briefed the group on talks earlier that day with House Speaker John Boehner, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. Obama also discussed the talks with congressional leaders, according to a participant, who described the meeting on condition of anonymity.
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