Chamber meets White House on 'fiscal cliff,' seeks easing of energy rules

Tom Donohue, the head of the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, on Monday met with White House officials on the looming "fiscal cliff."

The Chamber bet heavily on Republicans in the congressional elections and has often been at odds with the Obama administration. The group will play a major role especially in marshaling GOP support for a deficit deal, however, and is demanding an easing of energy regulations. 

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After the election, President Obama met with members of the business community but did not immediately reach out to business’ biggest lobbyist.

Donohue met with Obama’s chief of staff and former Budget Director Jack Lew and other officials. 

“This meeting is part of the ongoing dialogue on the fiscal cliff. The business community is always interested in being a positive force in addressing the economic challenges facing our country,” said Chamber spokewoman Sally-Shannon Birkel.

“Chamber members have been involved in many meetings with the administration in the past few weeks, and there are more meetings scheduled, as the business community continues to urge Congress and the administration to work together to avert the fiscal cliff,” she added.

Representatives from the Business Roundtable are also meeting with Lew, Budget Director Jeffrey Zients and National Economic Adviser Gene Sperling later on Monday.

The Chamber this month signaled an openness to tax revenue increases as part of a deal on the looming spending cuts and automatic tax increases set to hit in January without congressional action. Donohue said the group would examine the whole of a deficit deal before ruling out any specific tax loophole closures. 

Donohue said he wants the White House to ease energy regulations as part of a deal because it would jumpstart the economic recovery and generate revenue through growth.

The Chamber said it wants to see the permitting process for drilling to be expedited and more federal lands opened for energy exploration.

For revenue to be on the table in a fiscal cliff deal, real cuts to entitlements and an easing of energy regulations need to be on the table, the Chamber has said. 

“We want to be a player, we want to get a deal,” Donohue told reporters immediately following the election. 

The fiscal cliff refers to $600 billion in tax increases and spending cuts that experts predict will spark a recession. Obama and Congress are at loggerheads over cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and what to do with tax rates on upper-income individuals. 

This story was updated at 3:34 p.m.

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