Honeywell International CEO David Cote
The Business Roundtable is not known for its moderation or sympathy towards Democratic economic ideas. On the contrary, the organization represents the chief executives of many of the nation's largest companies, and has a reputation in D.C. for being a reliable Republican ally, especially on issues related to taxes, spending, and fiscal responsibility.
It's what made yesterday's developments that much more noteworthy.
The Business Roundtable, a group of the nation's top CEOs, Tuesday urged lawmakers to consider raising taxes to avert the fiscal cliff, a shift for business leaders who had previously said they wanted all tax cuts extended for one year.
"We urge you to step forward and demonstrate that principled compromise is once again possible and that the American political system that underpinned the economic success of our nation and others can function as designed," the group said in a letter to House and Senate leaders. A similar letter was also sent to the White House. The chief executives of Boeing Co., Dow Chemical Co., American Express Co. and other large businesses signed the letters. [...]
On Tuesday, Honeywell International Inc. Chief Executive David Cote explained the Roundtable's change of heart: "We think that compromise and showing our ability to govern is more important than sticking to any particular ideological view."
The Honeywell CEO added, "We recognize that part of the solution has to be tax increases. That's the only thing that allows a reasonable compromise to be reached."
The Business Roundtable's new policy position comes two weeks after a series of business leaders and Wall Street executives also rejected Republican debt-ceiling efforts, arguing that another GOP-imposed crisis would be awful for America's private sector.
Ordinarily, this would matter quite a bit to Republicans -- after all, folks like those in the Business Roundtable are effectively the GOP base. But for now, the nation's "job creators" are siding with President Obama, rejecting Republican antics, and leaving congressional GOP leaders in an awkward position.
Indeed, some on the right -- who ordinarily argue that policymakers should do whatever Big Business tells them to do -- are getting a little agitated. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) told the Wall Street Journal yesterday, "Big business may support raising tax rates on small businesses, but I do not."
Now, Camp probably knows what he's saying isn't true. A modest increase in the top rate affecting income above $250,000 is not a tax increase "on small businesses." But the larger point is, since when does the conservative Republican chair of the House Ways and Means Committee publicly bicker with the Business Roundtable?
What we're witnessing is a fight in which Republicans have isolated themselves from just about everyone, to an extent unseen in a long while. The White House, a majority of the Senate, a majority of the public, labor, CEOs of the nation's largest companies, and even Wall Street are on one side, pushing for bipartisan compromise and the immediate end to the looming debt-ceiling hostage crisis.
On the other side, we see congressional Republicans, far-right activists, and Fox News hosts.
GOP extremism, in other words, has left John Boehner and Mitch McConnell with very few friends. If they're looking for mainstream cover or support as the fiscal fight continues, they're not going to find any.