(AP) President Barack Obama is lobbying business and labor groups to support his plan to avoid an impending fiscal cliff, telling the two sides he remains committed to requiring the wealthy to pay more in taxes.
Obama was meeting Wednesday with about a dozen business executives as the White House and Congress face a series of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to take effect because lawmakers failed to reach a deal to reduce the federal debt. Business groups want an agreement before the end of the year, warning that the uncertainty could roil the financial markets and harm the economic recovery.
“We have studied this from all angles, and if we go over this fiscal cliff, I see a significant impact on our economy."
-- Southern Tier Republican Cong. Tom Reed
The region's sole Republican in Congress during talks about the looming "fiscal cliff" is optimistic that a range of bureaucratic cuts could offset the drastic mandated cuts that were put in across the board as part of last year's deal on the debt ceiling.
And he thinks that Congress can avoid the tax hikes that are expected to rush in after the first of the year too.
"I just wanted to stress my firm commitment to do whatever I can to try to find common ground to make sure that we do not go over this fiscal cliff,” Reed, who represents Chautauqua, Cattaraugus and Allegany counties said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday
Reed is the region's only Republican involved in the fiscal cliff talks, and he doesn't think that entitlement reform or significant tax reform is possible in a lame duck session. Instead he is advancing a platform that includes cuts in Washington's administrative costs.
Reed says there is bipartisan support for a range of personell cuts- including a federal hiring freeze, cuts of unfilled positions and various changes in the administration of Washington's bureaucracy.
"What we are talking about is the money that's bneen budgetd int he fedral government that goes to administrative costs, expanding construction activities in Washington DC, the expanding replacement (of) retiring employees, a freeze on hiring, downsizing federal government through attrition, and focusing on those 'DC' lines," Reed says.
He says he is encouraged that the President, House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leaders have not "boxed themseleves in," to "my way or the highway kind of comments"
The White House meeting follows a gathering of labor leaders and liberal groups Tuesday in which participants said Obama remained clear that he would push for his campaign pledge of making the wealthiest Americans pay more in taxes.
"We're prepared to stand up to make sure there is shared sacrifice here, so the rich actually start paying their fair share and the middle class don't get soaked for that," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
Obama was expected to speak in greater detail on the year-ending lame-duck session of Congress at a White House news conference Wednesday. Failure to act would lead to spending cuts and higher taxes on all Americans, with middle-income families paying an average of about $2,000 more next year, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.
The president pledged to raise taxes on the rich during his first term but backed off his stance in late 2010 after Republicans seized control of the House in the midterm election. During his meeting with labor leaders, Obama said he was not going to bend on letting tax cuts expire for top wage earners, according to a participant in the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the private session. The president said the tax issue was clear during the election and said he had extended those enacted during the George W. Bush administration once and would not do so again, the participant said.
The CEOs have urged Congress to extend the Bush-era tax cuts until a tax overhaul can be reached and prevent the spending cuts from taking place. The executives say the uncertainty over the fiscal cliff is hurting the nation's business climate and preventing hiring.
Obama will meet with several CEOs, including the heads of Aetna, Honeywell, Wal-Mart, Procter & Gamble and Ford.
The participants include members of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, a group founded by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles that has pushed for a long-term plan to fix the nation's debt and deficits.
Simpson, a former Wyoming senator, and Bowles, a former White House chief of staff, served as co-chairs of Obama's bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, which proposed $3 in spending cuts for every $1 in additional revenues.
Among the CEOs attending the meeting are General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, who chairs Obama's jobs council, and American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault and Xerox CEO Ursula Burns, who are members of the council.