Big Business Quick to Support Obama Post-Election

Business leaders make it clear their priority is avoiding the fiscal cliff, not necessarily higher taxes.

Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples office supply stores, addresses the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., Aug. 30, 2012.
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It's no secret many in the business world were hoping for Republican administration in the White House. But now that the American people have returned President Barack Obama for a final term, it appears business leaders are ready to work with him in order to avoid the economic calamity promised if lawmakers can't come to a deal on the deficit.

"I think everybody in the business community realizes the die has been cast as to who is going to be running things the next four years, irrespective of who we wish were running it," says Tom Stemberg, founder of Staples and current venture capitalist. "Thus, I think it behooves everyone to address America's most challenging problems, including a $1 trillion a year plus deficits, entitlement spending that in the future could bankrupt the nation, figuring out how to make the president's vision for national healthcare as affordable as possible, and the only way to work that and solve that is together."

Business groups, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which spent money in support of many Republican House and Senate candidates, but refrained from running advertisements in the presidential election, were quick to congratulate Election Day winners.

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"Americans have tasked both Democrats and Republicans with the responsibility to fix the economy, create jobs, and control the debt," said Tom Donahue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber, in a release the day after the election. Donahue acknowledged his group's failed role in electing more "pro-business" senators, but was ready to pivot to addressing the so-called fiscal cliff, a series of tax increases and across-the-board budget cuts set to go into effect in 2013.

"[Lawmakers] must act to prevent this fiscal cliff while committing to negotiate a 'big deal' to control the national debt by reforming entitlements and taxes and boosting American energy production," he said.

Other groups issuing statements in support of Obama following the election were the National Retail Federation and the International Franchise Association.

Though businesses have lobbied hard against eliminating or reducing some corporate tax loopholes or raising taxes on America's wealthiest individuals,due to the impact it would have on small businesses owners, it appears what they fear most is no compromise at all.

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Stemberg supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney, a man he is close friends with. But he's also a realist.

"If somebody told me that I'm going to have to pay more taxes by virtue of a cap in deductions or a tax on carried interest, if that is what it would take to truly balance our budget for the long-term and to really address the entitlement problems that are out there, if someone told me that, I could live with that," he says.

And despite the fact that Republicans in resisting any compromise that includes tax increases have cited business leaders' opposition to Democratic proposals, Stemberg says his willingness to pay more in favor of a balanced deal is not new.

"I think actually for most business people, that's been their attitude all along," he says. "The challenge has been that what you're facing instead is, 'Let's have the rich pay more and we can't touch Medicare, we can't touch Social Security, etc, etc.'"

Obama has invited business leaders and other outside interest groups to the White House on Wednesday to discuss solutions for the country's short- and long-term fiscal problems. But it remains to be seen if pressure from business leaders can outweigh that from a majority of GOP lawmakers, who have signed Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge.

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Rebekah Metzler is a political writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at rmetzler@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter.