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Dave Camp to Unveil Tax Code Overhaul, Despite Long Odds

February 20, 2014
Roll Call
Emma Dumain

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp appears determined to take one last stab at making good on his promise to pass an overhaul of the nation’s tax code by the end of the 113th Congress.

On Wednesday, the Michigan Republican told GOP members of the committee that he would, next week, release a “comprehensive discussion draft” of a tax code rewrite, one that would make the tax code “simpler and fairer for families and employers, and … strengthen our economy — meaning higher wages and more take home pay for the American worker.”

“It is time to make a choice,” said Camp in his email to colleagues, obtained by CQ Roll Call. “We can choose to have a real discussion about what tax reform can mean for American families and employers or we can choose to cower to special interests and maintain the status quo. Clearly, I choose the former.”

Though Camp’s decision to unveil his draft legislation marks a turning point for proponents of overhauling the tax code on both sides of the aisle, the political odds remain stacked against him.

His Senate counterpart and staunch ally, Democrat Max Baucus of Montana, has left Capitol Hill to serve as ambassador to China. Baucus has been replaced at the helm of the Senate Finance Committee by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., with whom Camp has no established rapport.

Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday were also already grumbling about the forthcoming discussion draft. Aides to minority members of the panel told CQ Roll Call that they were not on the official receiving end of Camp’s memo and learned only of the developments through media reports or from Republican colleagues who shared the email as a courtesy.

“It appears Chairman Camp only informed Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee … no surprise there,” one staffer for a Ways and Means Democrat said.

“We have not been briefed on it,” said another Democratic committee aide. “This is written exclusively by Republicans.”

Democrats will also likely balk at Camp’s suggestion that his draft legislation could be subject to “dynamic scoring.” The controversial scoring method takes a measure’s broad economic impact into account; Democrats have typically resisted dynamic scoring for tax bills, contending that Republicans have tried to overstate the economic impact of tax cuts.

Above all else, Camp is battling against time, with the legislative calendar already cut short due to the midterm elections.

But he’s got some preliminary support from leadership, at least.

“The speaker strongly supports tax reform to help get our economy moving and create more American jobs, and thanks Chairman Camp for his continuing work on this important issue,” said Michael Steel, John A. Boehner’s spokesman.

Read Camp’s full memo below:

The following note is from Chairman Camp to GOP Ways and Means Members, who have been blind copied on this email. Members should feel free to contact him with any questions. Committee Staff is also available for any questions.

As we travel around our districts, we see first hand that real families are struggling – they haven’t seen a pay raise in years, many have lost hope and stopped looking for a job and kids coming out of college are buried under a mountain of debt and have few prospects for a good-paying career. We’ve already lost a decade, and before we lose a generation, Washington needs to wake up to this reality and start debating real policies and offering concrete solutions to strengthen the economy and help hardworking taxpayers. As we all know, tax reform is one way we can do that.

We also know that many in Washington are scared by the prospects of tax reform; they don’t want to look special interests in the eye and say the game is up. Well, it is. We simply cannot afford the business as usual mentality that keeps Washington comfortable, but complacent. We have to get beyond the talking points and the political posturing. The American people are fed up and it is time for Washington to put the needs of hardworking taxpayers first.

Together, we have seriously and thoughtfully considered the implications and the benefits of tax reform. And, after much work by all of you, the staff (including the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation) – not to mention several discussion drafts, countless hearings, meetings and invaluable input from job creators and families across the country – it is time to make a choice. We can choose to have a real discussion about what tax reform can mean for American families and employers or we can choose to cower to special interests and maintain the status quo.

Clearly, I choose the former. That is why next week I will release a comprehensive discussion draft to overhaul our tax code to make it: (1) simpler and fairer for families and employers, and (2) strengthen our economy – meaning higher wages and more take home pay for the American worker.

As we have discussed, critical to understanding how tax reform can affect families and job creators is having a modern, up-to-date economic analysis that captures the dynamic effect. Only then can we know the real, positive impact tax reform can have on our economy, and more importantly, on family budgets. On that front, there is an important update. While the Joint Committee on Taxation is the sole scorer of tax bills, and will provide a dynamic analysis of the plan, earlier today CBO Director Elmendorf stated that he is willing to provide a dynamic analysis of tax reform. This is something he did for Democrats on the Senate immigration bill. I view this as a positive step. The debate used to be about getting a dynamic score; now we will have a choice of multiple scores.

Please enjoy the remainder of the District Work Week, and I look forward to continuing our work to strengthen the economy through comprehensive tax reform when we return to Washington next week.

-Dave

 

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