Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US) Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein is among the business leaders invited to the White House tomorrow as President Barack Obama seeks their support for his approach to addressing the fiscal cliff, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Obama’s meeting with the executives, his second such session this month, is part of an administration campaign to pressure Congress to extend tax cuts for middle-income Americans while letting them rise for top earners, according to the people, who requested anonymity because the list of those at the meeting hasn’t been officially released.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and other House Republican leaders are also scheduled to meet with Blankfein tomorrow and other CEOs pressing for an agreement to avoid the $607 billion in automatic tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January, according to a House aide.
With the Christmas holiday approaching, the Obama administration is mounting a campaign-style push for public support as the newly re-elected president faces off against congressional Republicans over proposals to avert the so-called fiscal cliff. He met with owners of small businesses today and is planning to visit a toy factory in Pennsylvania this week to help build public support for his plan.
Obama is urging Congress to act immediately on his plan to keep existing tax rates for middle-income Americans while letting those for the top earners rise, even as talks continue on spending cuts and changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare. Many Republicans say they are willing to consider higher revenue as along as it’s accompanied by cuts in entitlement programs.
The president is arguing that, without a deal, consumer confidence may suffer, hurting holiday shopping and the economic recovery.
“It is something that everyone in Washington agrees must be done and it is something that the House of Representatives could do today or tomorrow if they so chose, because the Senate has already passed a bill that extends those tax cuts” White House press secretary Jay Carney said today.
Negotiations have made such little headway that Obama is delaying inviting congressional leaders back to the White House this week as he had originally planned, according to a Democratic congressional aide.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told reporters today he’s “disappointed” by the lack of progress in the talks since he and other congressional leaders met with Obama at the White House on Nov. 16.
“There’s been little progress with Republicans,” Reid said. Lawmakers need to “get away from the happy talk” and start discussing specifics, he said.
Still, Reid said he was “extremely hopeful” and didn’t think Republicans will hold out and allow the tax increases and spending cuts to be triggered.
U.S. stocks extended losses as Reid spoke. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SPX) slipped 0.3 percent to 1,402.03 as of 3:17 p.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5 percent to 12,908.08.
Among the executives who will be meeting with members of Congress tomorrow are Thomas Wilson, the president and CEO of Allstate Corp. (ALL:US), Doug Oberhelman, the CEO of Caterpillar Inc., David Cote, the chairman and CEO of Honeywell International (HON:US) Inc. and Mark Bertolini, the chairman and CEO of Aetna Inc. (AET:US), according to the congressional aide.
Before tomorrow’s meeting with Blankfein and the other executives, Obama will have an event with middle-income Americans who would be affected if the tax rates rise.
Blankfein was at the White House in July to meet with Jack Lew, Obama’s chief of staff. He also is on the CEO fiscal leadership council of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, which was founded by the co-chairman of Obama’s fiscal commission.
The group is backing the framework laid out by 2010 fiscal commission leaders Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson for reducing the nation’s deficit, which has exceeded $1 trillion throughout Obama’s first term. Bowles, a Democrat and former White House chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and Simpson, a Republican and former senator from Wyoming, proposed tax increases and spending cuts.
The CEO councils’ principles call for Congress to overhaul Medicare and Medicaid, “strengthen” Social Security and enact “comprehensive and pro-growth tax reform” that lowers rates, broadens the tax base, raises revenue and cuts the deficit.
Blankfein has urged policymakers to reach a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff, including cutbacks to programs like Social Security and more revenue from the wealthiest Americans.
“Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career,” he said in an interview with CBS news on Nov. 19. “The retirement age has to be changed.”
“In the long run, there has to be more revenue,” he said. “The burden of that revenue will be disproportionately taken up by wealthier people. That’s just logical.”
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