Immelt Calls on Obama, Congress to Negotiate Fiscal Deal

General Electric Co. Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt called on President Barack Obama and his political adversaries in Congress to hold face-to-face talks to avert $1.2 billion of spending cuts set for next month.

“I would feel much better if they started meeting,” Immelt said at a forum on U.S. manufacturing hosted by the Atlantic magazine in Washington. “Let’s get negotiated certainty so we can grow the economy and do the things we all want to do.”

Immelt, who served two years as chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, said uncertainty about whether the cuts scheduled for March 1 will take effect is hurting U.S. companies. Obama called on Congress earlier this week to put off the so-called sequester and work instead on a short-term package that would increase revenue while trimming federal spending.

GE won’t reduce investment or research spending in anticipation of the cuts taking effect, Immelt said in a meeting with journalists on the forum’s sidelines. A group of small and medium-size customers of GE Capital’s lending business that Immelt met with yesterday in Philadelphia probably won’t have that luxury, he said.

“Like all business people, I’m rooting for this to get resolved, but I’m preparing the company for it not to get resolved,” Immelt said. “We’re prepared for volatility.”

Deficit Cut

At House Democrats’ annual retreat in Virginia today, Obama said he’s “prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal.” He’s called for curbing tax breaks for high-income individuals and changing the treatment of profits in buyout deals, known as carried interest.

House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, will oppose delaying the automatic spending reductions unless Congress replaces them with other “cuts and reforms,” he said yesterday.

A bill passed in January with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate delayed the automatic spending reductions by two months. It also made tax cuts enacted by former President George W. Bush permanent for most workers, allowed a payroll tax cut to expire and extended unemployment benefits. Obama negotiated with congressional leaders in the days before the votes.

The biggest decline in defense spending in 40 years helped stall the U.S. economy last quarter, with gross domestic product declining at a 0.1 percent annual rate.

Obama didn’t renew the 27-member job council’s charter, ending its two-year term. Boeing Co. CEO Jim McNerney, Xerox Corp. CEO Ursula Burns and AOL Inc. co-founder Steve Case were also members of the group.

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