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K Street Files: Business Roundtable Weighs In on Entitlements

With an overhaul of entitlement programs possible on the horizon, the Business Roundtable is flexing its muscle on Social Security and Medicare.

The association, made up of CEOs from some of the largest American corporations, is urging Congress to raise the age at which seniors become eligible for the two programs.

The group asked lawmakers to raise the Social Security retirement age from 67 to 70 and shift to the chained consumer price index for calculating the program’s cost-of-living adjustments. The business lobby also wants lawmakers to raise the eligible age for Medicare to 70 and consider means-testing the health program’s benefits to ease the costs of caring for upper-income beneficiaries. The proposal would not affect anyone currently over age 55.

It’s an ambitious set of requests likely to face opposition from both sides of the aisle. But after CEOs flocked to Washington last month in an effort to sway the fiscal cliff negotiations, the group is eager to wade into future tax and spending negotiations.

A group of CEOS, including members of the Business Roundtable and the Fix the Debt coalition, ruffled feathers in typically friendly Republican offices when they appeared to side with the Obama administration in blessing a deal that would raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans last month. This latest set of proposals is not likely to draw the same type of criticism.

Private grousing from some conservatives doesn’t appear to have dissuaded the CEOs from continued involvement.

“We are committed to seeing these recommendations enacted,” said Gary W. Loveman, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment Corp. and chairman of the Business Roundtable’s health and retirement committee. “We will be meeting with members of Congress and administration officials and urging them to include entitlement modernization in a balanced package of debt-stabilization measures.”

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