Business groups call for immediate action on coming fiscal cliff

"Businesses, large and small, cannot plan for the future and are delaying the hiring of more workers that will grow and strengthen the U.S. economy."

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday said he was “not confident at all” that Congress and the White House could reach an agreement on a debt deal.

"Failure to address the automatic tax increases and spending cuts would reduce economic growth and could jeopardize economic recovery," the letter said.

"It is not responsible to wait until the end of the year to take action. The time to act is now."

The House has passed a one-year extension of the George W. Bush-era tax rates as well as legislation that would replace the automatic spending cuts with other reductions. 

The Senate passed a bill that would let tax breaks expire for those making $250,000 a year or more, the position advocated by President Obama.

But the upper chamber has not tackled the spending cuts that would be triggered in 2013 if Congress doesn't act. 

At this point, there seems to be a growing understanding that Congress will punt the issue to next year, probably after taking just enough action during the lame-duck session to stave off the spending cuts and tax increases. 

A broader agreement would then be worked out after the next administration, whether under Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney, as well as a new Congress, settles in next year. 

The business groups are calling on an extension of all Bush-era tax rates, including current marginal rates, dividend and capital gains rates and estate tax relief. 

They also want to extend expiring business tax provisions, provide alternative minimum tax (AMT) relief and find spending cuts to replace those in the sequester. 

In looking down the road, the groups, which include chambers of commerce around the country and a wide variety of other groups, want Washington to commit to tackling comprehensive tax reform and take a closer look at the level of entitlement spending.