Republicans rely heavily on corporations for political support and have regularly cited the opinions of these “job creators” in their opposition to new tax revenue. Many of the House GOP freshmen most opposed to a compromise were swept into office with the help of financial support from groups behind the letter.
But the business community, which has largely kept quiet on the issue until now, does not uniformly share the Republican orthodoxy on taxes, according to some lobbyists who helped craft the statement.
The letter conspicuously avoided any mention of tax revenue partly because of differences of opinion among executives over whether to compromise on taxes to get a deal done, said a senior industry lobbyist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the internal deliberations were private.
“The debt default would be exponentially more painful than anything else,” said another senior executive at a major business lobbying group.
The letter, signed by hundreds of senior company executives and groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, said that “it is critical that the U.S. government not default in any way” and urges lawmakers “to put aside partisan differences and act in the nation’s best interest.”
“The business community in large numbers is saying to our leaders in Washington, ‘Do your job,’ ” said Business Roundtable President John Engler, a former Republican governor of Michigan. “Failure to raise the debt ceiling would strike an immediate and serious blow to any economic recovery, and failure to make significant progress on long-term debt reduction will continue the uncertainty which is hampering our investment climate.”
Republican lawmakers had a muted response to the business groups’ warnings. A spokesman for House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama was to blame for the standoff and pointed to a House Republican proposal to slash tax rates and transform Medicare into a voucher program.
“We already voted for a long-term deficit reduction plan,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said in a statement. “Since the president is asking for the debt-limit increase, we’d like to see such a plan from him — but haven’t.”
The developments underscore the increasingly awkward marriage between corporate leaders and the ambitious House GOP freshman class, which has joined the business lobby in opposing Obama’s health-care law and financial regulations but has shown no sign of budging on the debt ceiling. Boehner and other Republicans abandoned White House talks over the weekend aimed at formulating a “grand bargain” of spending cuts and revenue increases before an Aug. 2 deadline, when the country would default on its debt.