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The Business Lobby Still Wants To Play Nice

As Jonathan pointed out last week, it may be strategically wise for Obama to remain vague on his plan for health care in the budget--thus keeping "potentially hostile lobbies from going ballistic" and buying the Democrats more time to keep everyone on board. This strategy at least seems to have succeeded with the Business Roundtable, the powerful lobbying group that came out strongly against Clinton's 1993 health care plan.

You'd imagine that a lobby representing major corporations would be livid about the proposed tax hikes for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans. But--for now, at least--the Roundtable has held off from outright criticism and instead turned to praise Obama's commitment to reform, continuing to emphasize their desire to have a constructive role in the negotiations. Yesterday afternoon, I spoke with Maria Ghazal, a policy director for the Roundtable, who declined to react to any of the bold measures that Obama has proposed so far, claiming that the group needed more time to examine the budget and talk to its members:

We haven't looked at [the budget] in depth at all, but what I will say is that the feeling at the Roundtable is that the President clearly has put this as a top priority...everyone feels assured. We're pleased that he thinks health care reform needs to be looked at through fiscal responsibility and costs should be lowered.

This is not to say that the Roundtable and the other business lobbies will continue to stay quiet when it comes to their criticisms of the bold Democratic plan for reform. In fact, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have already blasted Obama's budget proposal as "disappointing" and "mov[ing] in exactly the wrong direction." But the fact that a corporate heavyweight like the Roundtable is willing to sit on its hands--even for a short time--and emphasize their alliance with Obama is a promising sign of just how committed these stakeholders are to ensuring that comprehensive reform happens.

--Suzy Khimm