WASHINGTON -- Jeffrey Immelt, the chairman of President Barack Obama's Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, joined Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue on Monday to urge lawmakers to quickly cut a deal to raise the debt limit.
But both stopped short of calling on corporations to concede special tax breaks in the grand deficit reduction compromise -- something Obama insists must be a piece of the "shared sacrifice" of all sectors feeling the pain of spending cuts.
Immelt, who is also the CEO of General Electric, ignored a question on whether corporations should swallow Obama's call for closing tax loopholes as lawmakers search for ways to generate revenues in what is now looking to be a $2.4 trillion deficit reduction package.
In fact, Immelt, who spoke to reporters after giving the keynote address at a Chamber forum on jobs, defended corporations receiving tax breaks and redirected attention back to Congress needing to do its job in resolving deficit matters.
"I think it's unfair to blame business," he said. "I think it's now time for our legislative process to work. I'm convinced, you know, these guys know what they need to do and we should get a deal done."
Donohue, also speaking to reporters, demurred when asked if Obama has a point when he says that corporations need to "step up" and take their lumps in the massive deficit reduction package.
"The president as well as everybody else is in a political season and we're in that jockeying back and forth," Donohue said. "I haven't seen the government step up on the question of Medicare and Medicaid."
"But, we will continue to talk. This thing will get resolved."
Both said the most important thing is for the White House and Congress to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling by August 2, when the federal government is expected to run out of money to pay its bills. Obama and Congressional leaders are resuming talks Tuesday afternoon over a sweeping deficit plan that Republicans say should contain no tax increases and that Democrats say should generate revenues via closing corporate tax loopholes. Republicans have insisted on tying any vote to raise the debt limit to a deficit reduction plan, hence the increasing anxiety on the issue.
Failure to increase the debt limit "will drive this country into a major second recession we don't need," said Donohue.
Immelt expressed similar urgency on the issue, though he couldn't say how the administration is linking debt and deficit reduction to job creation, the number one issue on many people's minds after a dismal June jobs report and as unemployment hovers around 9.2 percent.
"You'd have to ask the president that. You really would. You'd have to ask the administration that. I'm very focused on job plan ideas."