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Obama attempts 'fiscal cliff' coup: winning over business leaders

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“Our nation’s entitlement programs are unsustainable. If we do not make sensible reforms, the programs will go bankrupt – and so will the nation,” wrote the US Chamber of Commerce to lawmakers in mid-November. “No one can dispute that.”

Indeed, even as some Republicans wonder whether simply agreeing to the president’s demand for higher tax rates on the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans may be politically advantageous, they still are mindful of business hesitation about a bigger tax burden for anyone.

“Unfortunately, the president’s insistence on raising taxes on these job creators will be burdensome and harmful to their operations,” said Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the House Republican whip, in a statement after the House GOP’s meeting with small business chiefs. “Small businesses are the engine of our economy, and House Republicans continue to have their back.” 

So could business play a deciding role in the fiscal cliff debate? Perhaps at the margins, says Mr. Davis of Davis Capital Investment Ideas. But GOP lawmakers have another, far larger fear than running afoul of corporate interests.

“The thing to remember with just about any Republican in Congress is they are all terrified of a challenge from the right in the 2014 primaries,” says Davis. “If an asteroid was going to destroy Earth, half the Republicans would still be afraid about a right-wing challenge in the next primary.”

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