Chamber: Entitlements mandatory piece of deficit deal

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Current retirees and those "very close to retirement" could be exempted from any program changes, he added.

Donohue reiterated that when it comes to the expiring tax cuts and automatic spending cuts that make up the fiscal cliff, the Chamber wants Congress to suspend sequestration and extend all expiring tax provisions. With the immediate economic contraction averted, policymakers should be given a "short but reasonable time" to strike a broad deficit-reduction deal that includes comprehensive entitlement and tax reform. Donohue said he believes markets and the business community would give Congress one year to strike a massive fiscal deal — after that "nobody is going to sit still any longer."

"The fiscal cliff is not a sudden surprise. Congress and the administration have known all year about this challenge," he said. "It's now time to act. The elections are over."

The Chamber's stance on entitlements mirrors that put forward by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who has said he would be willing to accepted increased revenues to the government in exchange for changes to entitlement programs.

Donohue also said the business group backed tax reform that increases revenue, but through lowered rates and scrapped loopholes. President Obama and Democrats continue to push for higher income tax rates on the nation's top earners, but Donohue threw cold water on the idea.

"Raising rates punishes successes and discourages legitimate risk-taking and hard work, which are absolutely vital to the success of this economy," he warned.

Donohue also pushed expanded energy production as a vital cog of the nation's economy and fiscal health going forward. Calling it the nation's "true cash cow," Donohue said policymakers should embrace future revenues it could reap from increased energy production, even if they cannot be reflected in current scoring measures.

"The budget experts will quickly tell you that future revenues from energy can't be scored in the traditional way. They may not be able to score it, but they sure as hell can spend it," he said. "We're going to find a way for them to score it properly."

Donohue also pushed comprehensive immigration reform and an expansive trade agenda as top Chamber priorities heading into 2013 and beyond.