President Obama launched a double-pronged appeal in his latest bid to court business leaders, asking a group of CEOs on Wednesday to back him on allowing a tax hike on wealthier Americans and also pushing back against Republican attempts to use the debt ceiling in budget negotiations.
He told members of the Business Roundtable that the only way to reach the amount of revenue needed for a balanced package to address the country’s deficits and avert the so-called fiscal cliff was to extend Bush-era tax cuts for middle-class Americans while letting them expire for the top 2 percent of income-earners.
“By doing that alone, we raise almost a trillion dollars,” he said. “…The holdup right now is that Speaker Boehner took a position, I think, the day after the campaign that said, ‘We’re willing to bring in revenue but we’re not going to increase rates.'”
Obama said the GOP proposal to close tax loopholes and cap or eliminate deductions only goes so far — adding up to $300 or $400 billion — without hitting deductions that could harm the less fortunate, such as the one for charitable giving.
“We’re not insisting on [higher] rates just out of spite …but rather because we need to raise a certain amount of revenue,” he said.
The president also told the group that he would not allow Republicans in Congress to try and barter a debt-ceiling increase in exchange for more spending cuts, noting that the horse-trading alone over an increase last year sent the economy reeling.
“We can’t afford to go there again,” he said. “…The only thing the debt ceiling is good as a weapon for is destroying your credit rating… I will not play that game.”
His appearance at the the Roundtable is the latest in a series of attempts to reach out to business leaders. He has met at the White House with several groups of CEOs and also small business owners in recent weeks. He granted his first post-election television interview Tuesday to Bloomberg TV, whose audience is largely business-focused.
Obama argued that if Boehner would give in on the tax rates, a larger, balanced deal could get done “in about a week.”
“If we can get the leadership on the Republican side to take that framework, acknowledge that reality, then the numbers really aren’t that far apart,” he said. “We can probably solve this in about a week. Its not that tough…but we need that breakthrough.”