Chief executives of some of the most prominent U.S. corporations met Wednesday with President Barack Obama, who seeks their support in resolving key government tax and spending issues before the end of the year.
The U.S. is facing a looming “fiscal cliff” on January 1, when $600 billion in mandated spending cuts to crucial defense and domestic programs and tax increases. The cuts will go into effect January 1 if Mr. Obama cannot reach an agreement on a compromise with his Republican opponents in Congress.
But the Democratic incumbent, re-elected to a second term last week, told reporters in Washington that he believes a deal can be reached.
“Both parties voted to set this deadline. And I believe that both parties can work together to make these decisions in a balanced and responsible way.”
Mr. Obama is hoping that leaders of such well-known international companies as General Electric, American Express, Wal-Mart Stores and others will support his call for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases for the wealthiest American families, including those of the chief executives.
Some American corporate leaders are calling on Mr. Obama and lawmakers in Congress to reach a compromise. They are fearful that a continued stalemate on taxes and spending that started more than a year ago will push the country's fragile economic recovery back into a recession.
Mr. Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders Friday, in their first face-to-face talks on the contentious issues. The president is proposing $1.6 trillion in increased government revenue over the next decade, partly through elimination of a decade-old tax cut for the nation's wealthiest households, those making more than $250,000 a year.
Key Republican lawmakers have said they are open to increasing government revenue through elimination of some tax deductions, but they have rejected the president's bid to end the tax cut for wealthy Americans. They are seeking major reforms to cut the growing cost of funding pension and health care programs for the elderly, as well as medical support for impoverished Americans.
The negotiations are likely to be long and difficult, and may extend to just before the calendar turns from 2012 to 2013. Some of Mr. Obama's Democratic supporters have suggested that he ought to allow spending cuts and tax increases for all Americans, wealthy and poor alike, and then negotiate a more comprehensive package in the new year. Mr. Obama has so far shown no interest in that scheme.
The president said at a news conference Wednesday at the White House that he wants “a big deal, a comprehensive deal.”
A day earlier, Mr. Obama met with labor leaders who widely supported his re-election campaign. They called on him to reject any agreement that would cut spending on programs for the elderly and poor, and said they favor ending tax-reductions for the wealthiest taxpayers.