News / Economy

CEOs Take Familiar, Frustrating Path to Washington on Budget Woes

FILE - Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and David Cote, (C) CEO of Honeywell International and part of the steering committee of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, are joined by supporters to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, Oct. 25, 2012.
FILE - Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, and David Cote, (C) CEO of Honeywell International and part of the steering committee of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, are joined by supporters to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, Oct. 25, 2012.
Some of America's leading CEOs are beating a familiar path to Washington to support a stopgap bill to raise the U.S. borrowing limit and avert a government shutdown, warning lawmakers that the specter of the first debt default in the country's history and a credit downgrade is damaging the economy.

The business leaders, all members of a group called “Fix the Debt,” said they went to Capitol Hill last week with a simple message for Republicans and Democrats, but it is the same as the one they delivered in budget standoffs of 2011 and 2012.

“Engage in whatever political machinations you wish, but do not default,” said Honeywell International Inc Chief Executive David Cote. “Don't throw away a credit history built up since George Washington.”

For these corporate leaders, it's a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day,” where the main character lives the same day over and over, wondering whether there is a way out of the scene.

What Does a U.S. Government Shutdown Mean?

  • Large parts of the federal government need to be funded each year to operate
  • If Congress cannot agree on how to fund them, those parts of the government shut down
  • During a shutdown, federal workers are separated into excepted and non-excepted employees
  • Excepted must continue to work, and will be paid when Congress funds the government again
  • Non-excepted are furloughed and not guaranteed to receive back-pay
  • Parts of the government dealing with national security and public safety and those with independent funding like the Postal Service continue to operate
  • Other parts shut down, including National Parks, the EPA and the processing of visa and passport applications
  • The last government shutdown lasted 21 days and ended on January 6, 1996
The U.S. government faces the possibility of a partial shutdown of operations on Oct. 1 as Congress struggles to pass an emergency spending bill. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives want a one-year delay in the Oct. 1 start of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, President Barack Obama's signature healthcare legislation, in return for raising U.S. borrowing authority by enough to let the Treasury borrow through the end of 2014.

Even though many of the CEOs believe federal spending is excessive and the deficit puts U.S. economic health at risk, they want Congress to pass an emergency measure.

On Friday, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 235 other business groups joined the push. In a joint letter to Congress, they urged lawmakers to fund the government past the deadline and to “act expeditiously to raise the nation's debt limit.”

The letter also said, “It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy.”


The “Fix the Debt” group calls for any short-term debt deal to be followed by fiscal reform to reduce the deficit. The CEOs insist that avoiding a shutdown cannot be the final goal and say a comprehensive bipartisan agreement on politically sensitive tax and spending reforms is needed.

They concede it will be tough to achieve in the deeply divided and gridlocked Congress.

“There's plenty of different plans; what we haven't done is land on one that everybody buys into,” said Bob Moritz, chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.

Honeywell's Cote, Tenneco Inc. CEO Gregg Sherrill and Paul Stebbins, executive chairman of World Fuel Services Corp., plan to take an even bigger group of chief executives to Washington in October.

“It's not for us to articulate precisely what the negotiated settlement should look like,” Stebbins said. “But we're telling them that the dysfunction is doing deep damage to the country and to the world's perception of us.”

With current funding scheduled to expire at the end of September and the government fast approaching the $16.7 trillion debt limit imposed by Congress earlier this year, Stebbins said the group urged lawmakers to pass the continuing resolution and not delay Obamacare.

“It's just reckless to try to hold it hostage - to hold the whole country hostage - because you don't like a law,” Stebbins said.

Separately, Goldman Sachs Group Inc's CEO Lloyd Blankfein said that although he was optimistic an agreement to raise the debt ceiling would ultimately pass, concerns that Congress would fail to act in time were hurting markets and the economy.

“Saying we'll blow up the credit rating is not responsible,”  Blankfein said on Wednesday on a panel of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.

NYSE Euronext CEO Duncan Niederauer, however, said markets have so far taken little notice of the debt ceiling debate.

Niederauer said that anxiety over a potential government shutdown is “the only thing that's stopping the U.S. economy from really being unleashed in a positive way.”

The last close-call on a government shutdown in December 2012 and early 2013 dealt a blow to small-business confidence, hurting lending and job growth, said Richard Hunt, head of a trade group called the Consumer Bankers Association.

Hunt told reporters on Wednesday that experienced lawmakers understand the implications of shutting down the government, but some newer members do not seem to realize how wide-ranging the effects could be.

“Some of these people who just got elected believe they are here to save the country, and they're not worried about a two- or three-day shutdown,” Hunt said. “So we need to make sure we have adults in both parties right now.”

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.