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Political gridlock over 'fiscal cliff'? Not if CEOs can help it.

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In a press conference earlier Wednesday, Mr. Obama claimed an election mandate for raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, but Republican leaders haven’t made clear how far they might budge on that question. Polls suggest that the business leaders’ desire for fiscal compromise is shared by most Americans.

Against that backdrop, here are some of indications of how business groups and CEOs are trying to nudge policymakers toward a deal:

• Their No. 1 message is simply to reduce the size of the “cliff,” probably by postponing most of the tax hikes and spending cuts. Thomas Donohue of the US Chamber of Commerce, for example, recently issued a statement asserting that “the most urgent matter facing the president and the outgoing Congress is to take action  before January 1 to stop massive tax increases and indiscriminate spending cuts, which could push our economy back into a recession.”

• Businesses say Congress can’t stop there. The next needed step is longer-term bargaining to control the national debt, via spending restraint, tax reform, and some changes to make Medicare and Social Security less expensive.

• They are launching ad campaigns as well as lobbying efforts. Scores of CEOs are participating in a “Fix the Debt” campaign, backed also by the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. On Tuesday, the Business Roundtable announced “It’s Time to Act,” a separate fiscal push by big-company CEOs including Mr. Davis at UPS.

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