Business leaders stay behind scenes as U.S. fiscal fight unfolds

President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans share one piece of common ground in the stalemate over the budget and the debt ceiling: Neither side wants to budge. More

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Business leaders stay behind scenes as U.S. fiscal fight unfolds

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/ANDREW HARRER
BUSINESS LEADERS seem reticent to enter the political fray that has erupted over funding the federal government into the new fiscal year or extended the U.S. debt limit, with Presdent Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act in the center of the debate at this point.
Posted 9/26/13

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans share one piece of common ground in the stalemate over the budget and the debt ceiling: Neither side wants to budge.

U.S. business leaders are weighing in with their own message for the two parties: It’s not our job to save Washington from itself.

Unlike previous fiscal showdowns, including the last-minute budget deal at the start of this year and the standoff over the debt limit in 2011, business representatives aren’t rushing in to publicly lobby for an agreement.

With four days to go before federal spending authority runs out and a few weeks until the United States hits its borrowing limit, executives who’ve engaged in past Washington fiscal battles say while they’d prefer that the government not shut down, their top concern is avoiding a federal default.

“If we default, it’s economic suicide,” said David Cote, CEO of Honeywell International Inc. and a member of the Campaign to Fix the Debt. “You don’t want the Congress or the president looking at it and ever saying ‘I have the upper hand here because the other side has to blink.’ This is one where both sides have to blink.”

This version of the budget-and-debt debate has gotten tangled with unrelated issues, including the president’s health care law and TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline. Executives say they see little chance that Obama or Republican leaders can get an agreement on what should be the main issues of taxes and entitlement spending, and without that part of the equation, many executives are staying behind scenes.

Main issues

Cote said he’s made the point during conversations with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders as well as Obama and other administration officials that they should use this opportunity to deal with those issues.

“We still have not addressed the big things here, which are entitlement and tax reform,” said Cote, who was a member of Obama’s 2010 fiscal commission. “It’s a great time to say let’s talk about all these other things.”

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