CEOs take familiar, frustrating path to Washington on budget woes

Fri Sep 27, 2013 7:31pm EDT
 
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By James B. Kelleher and Patricia Kranz

(Reuters) - Some of America's leading CEOs are beating a familiar path to Washington to support efforts to avert a government shutdown and raise the U.S. borrowing limit, warning lawmakers that the threat of the first debt default in the country's history is damaging the economy.

The business leaders, all members of a group called "Fix the Debt," said they went to Capitol Hill last week with a simple message for Republicans and Democrats, but it is the same as the one they delivered in budget standoffs of 2011 and 2012.

"Engage in whatever political machinations you wish, but do not default," said Honeywell International Inc (HON.N: Quote) Chief Executive David Cote. "Don't throw away a credit history built up since George Washington."

For these corporate leaders, it's a bit like the movie "Groundhog Day," where the main character lives the same day over and over, wondering whether there is a way out of the scene.

The U.S. government faces the possibility of a partial shutdown on October 1 as Congress struggles to pass an emergency spending bill that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives wants to use to defund President Barack Obama's healthcare law. The Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House reject the Republican position. If the gridlock persists then a spending bill may not be passed into law by the Tuesday deadline, triggering the shutdown.

Even though many of the CEOs believe federal spending is excessive and a large budget deficit puts U.S. economic health at risk, they want Congress to pass the spending bill and raise the limit on government borrowing.

On Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 235 other business groups joined the push. In a joint letter to Congress, they urged lawmakers to fund the government past the deadline and to "act expeditiously to raise the nation's debt limit."

The letter also said, "It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy."   Continued...

 
David Cote, chairman and chief executive of Honeywell, speaks during The Economist's Buttonwood Gathering in New York October 24, 2012. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri