Politico Pro
June 14, 2013

Tax Reform Talks Hit The Road

Tax reform is hitting the road — literally.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) are moving on to the next stage of tax reform and this summer they are taking the debate to a town near you.

“Dave and I are going to travel across the country and visit different cities,” Baucus told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. He said they will be traveling together to hear from people and businesses about ways to change the tax code.

The road trip is an effort to put a public face on the complicated push to rewrite the nation’s convoluted tax system. It also represents a new phase of the debate as the chief tax writers on Capitol Hill say they’re poised to move from talk to action on reform.

“The next steps are more concrete in the nature of proposals that will be coming out fairly soon,” Baucus told reporters at a joint breakfast with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.

“There’s a formal side of this, in terms of the committee and committee hearings,” Camp said. “We’re going to continue that.”

They both face obstacles, including skepticism from members of their own party and a challenging legislative calendar.

But the chairmen are looking to the upcoming debt limit debate to propel tax reform. There’s a sense that the debt limit negotiations will refocus Congress — which has spent most of its time this year haggling over guns and immigration — back to fiscal policy and the need for a new tax system.

“Sometimes you need a deadline to force ourselves to do something,” Baucus said.

As important as the debt ceiling negotiations might be to the fate of tax reform, Baucus said he doesn’t think Congress needs to include instructions for an overhaul in the final debt deal. That’s something that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has flatly rejected as the Obama administration insists Congress should pass a clean bill to raise the nation’s borrowing capacity without any strings attached.

“I’m moving ahead with tax reform independent of everything else,” Baucus said.

Camp said the chairmen have some breathing room now that it appears that the nation will hit the debt ceiling later in the year. Though initial predictions estimated the U.S. would hit the borrowing limit this summer, the Congressional Budget Office recently forecast the ceiling won’t be breached until October or November.

“The debt limit is coming later so it looks like we have a little more time,” Camp said.

Baucus and Camp already meet one-on-one every week. Camp said that process has helped foster a relationship that allows them to deal with issues on a constant, rolling basis.

“We’re friends, we like each other,” Baucus said. “Neither of us wants to be president. We don’t wear our egos on our sleeve. We want to get the job done.

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