Claremore Daily Progress

Community News Network

June 12, 2013

Congressional inexperience may be biggest hurdle to tax code rewrite

WASHINGTON — As lawmakers rewrite the 4,000-page U.S. Internal Revenue Code, the complexities of Congress - not just the tax code - may present some of the biggest hurdles.

              

Lobbyists and lawmakers working on tax legislation point to a relative lack of experience among officials and their staffs - particularly among House Republicans - in drafting, debating, and voting on major pieces of tax legislation.

              

That may make tax reform more difficult, Bloomberg BNA reported. Add the migration of power from House committees to a small number of majority-party leaders in recent years, and the odds of passing tax reform appear longer still.

              

"Whenever I hear about tax reform, I get very skeptical about it," said retired representative Lee Hamilton, a Democrat from Indiana who is director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University.

              

Of lobbyists, officials and former lawmakers, and tax- writing staff members interviewed by BNA, none predicted that the challenges would derail reform. Several agreed the task will be tougher based on the realities of crafting such a complicated bill. Votes in committee alone could take days, testing the patience and knowledge of staff and lawmakers.

              

Leaders of the tax-writing committees say they're committed to the process, which could simplify tax returns for individuals and companies, reduce tax rates and possibly raise revenue to lower the federal budget deficit.

              

Several lobbyists and others pointed to the Affordable Care Act of 2010 - when Democrats were in the majority - as the last time the Ways and Means Committee took on such a major bill. What used to be six or seven significant tax markups in a year has dwindled to one or two, a former senior staff member on the committee told BNA.

              

That makes cooperation among the two tax-writing committees and the White House more critical, Capitol Hill veterans said. While the public favors overhaul, the idea can only advance with bipartisan leadership, Hamilton said. That's assuming Republican Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan and Democratic Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana convince the White House to support it.

              

Tax-writing committees on both sides of the Capitol have lost key staffers, as well as some senior lawmakers. Of the 17 Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee in 2007-2008, 10 are no longer in Congress; one, Rep. Eric Cantor, is the House majority leader.

              

The Ways and Means Committee's staff director, Jonathan Traub, left in 2012 for Deloitte Tax. In the Senate, Jeff VanderWolk, the Finance Committee's international tax counsel, left in June for Washington Council Ernst & Young.

              

Some of the deepest experience lies on the minority side in each chamber. In the Senate, Mark Prater remains as chief Republican tax counsel on the Finance Committee, where he has worked for more than 20 years. In the House, lawmakers such as Charles Rangel of New York and ranking Democrat Sander Levin of Michigan were members during the last major tax code overhaul in 1986. Janice Mays, Democratic tax counsel, has worked with the committee since the 1970s and helped write the 1986 reform.

              

Lawmakers downplayed any shortage of experience, although Rep. John Larson, a Democrat who is a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee, said he is concerned about the lack of "regular order" - committee action, House-Senate conference committees and traditional features of legislation that have fallen out of favor but help foster bipartisanship.

              

Regular order presents its own challenges, a former senior committee staff member said. Those include such "traffic cop" questions as how to handle amendments, whether votes should be rolled together to save time and how closely the committee sticks to the predicted time of votes during the markup, all of which works better with experienced staff.

              

In the past, markups have been preceded by staff work at least a day ahead, he said. During the health care debate, he said, Republican staff lined up which lawmakers would offer which amendments and assigned backup duty to others, knowing they would probably lose most votes but wanting to make sure points were heard.

              

People monitoring and working on tax reform generally agreed that the committees have lost staff experience. Still, Traub said the staff of the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation remains a wealth of expertise.

              

And both tax-writing committees have put considerable work into examining policy in preparation for reform. The Ways and Means Committee convened working groups to examine particular sections of the code, and the Finance Committee has undertaken similar work and produced a weekly series of options papers on potential changes.

              

"Our staff is very, very knowledgeable of tax policy, they're very engaged with members, and we have a very free flow of communication," Representative Charles Boustany, a Republican from Louisiana who is on the Ways and Means Committee. "I think that's going to facilitate a markup."



 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 072214 Diamond Llama 1.jpg Llama on the loose corralled in Missouri town

    A llama on the lam cruised Main Street Tuesday before it mistook a resident’s fenced backyard for a place to grab a meal and freshen up.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • NWS-HB0713-HowardMartin-004.jpg Airman laid to rest back home in Indiana six decades after death

    The mystery of what happened to a military transport plane that disappeared in the fall of 1952 into an Alaskan glacier was solved two years ago when a helicopter crew spotted the wreckage. But it took another two years to retrieve the remains of Airman Howard Miller and 16 other servicemen passengers. Saturday, Miller was laid to rest in his hometown of Elwood, Ind., with full military honors. Hundreds turned out for the funeral and burial services.

    July 13, 2014 2 Photos

  • New York to offer free lunch to all middle-school students

    New York's $75 billion spending plan for the fiscal year that began last week includes the first step toward offering free lunch for all 1.1 million students, expanding a program now reserved only for the city's poorest children.

    July 9, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.24.10 AM.png VIDEO: Pilot buys pizzas for storm-delayed travelers

    A Frontier Airlines pilot went above and beyond the call of duty when a recent flight from Washington, D.C. to Denver was diverted to Cheyenne, Wyoming due to bad weather.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 8, 2014