The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

State & National News

June 14, 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
State & National News
  • Consumer spending on health care jumps as Affordable Care Act takes hold

    WASHINGTON - Nancy Beigel has known since September that she would need hernia surgery. She couldn't afford it on her $11,000 yearly income until she became eligible for Medicaid in January through President Barack Obama's signature health care law.

    April 19, 2014

  • Why Facebook is getting into the banking game

    Who would want to use Facebook as a bank? That's the question that immediately arises from news that the social network intends to get into the electronic money business.

    April 15, 2014

  • E-Cigarettes target youth with festivals, lawmakers say

    WASHINGTON - The findings, in a survey released Monday by members of Congress, should prod U.S. regulators to curb the industry, the lawmakers said. While e-cigarettes currently are unregulated, the Food and Drug Administration is working on a plan that would extend its tobacco oversight to the products.

    April 15, 2014

  • Search teams will send unmanned sub to look for missing Malaysian airliner

    Teams searching for a missing Malaysian airliner are planning for the first time to send an unmanned submarine into the depths of the Indian Ocean to look for wreckage, an Australian official leading the multi-nation search said Monday.

    April 15, 2014

  • Millions of Android phones, tablets vulnerable to Heartbleed bug

    SAN FRANCISCO - Millions of smartphones and tablets running Google's Android operating system have the Heartbleed software bug, in a sign of how broadly the flaw extends beyond the Web and into consumer devices.

    April 13, 2014

  • DayCareCosts.jpg Day care's cost can exceed college tuition in some states

    Most parents will deal with an even larger kid-related expense long before college, and it's a cost that very few of them are as prepared for: day care.

    April 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Stepping forward: The real Colbert

    Letterman changed the late-night TV game between his run on NBC's "Late Night" and starting the "Late Show" franchise in 1993. And while it's tough to replace a pop-culture icon, Colbert, in terms of pedigree and sense of humor, makes the most sense.

    April 12, 2014

  • Boston doctors can now prescribe you a bike

    The City of Boston this week is rolling out a new program that's whimsically known as "Prescribe-a-Bike." Part medicine, part welfare, the initiative allows doctors at Boston Medical Center to write "prescriptions" for low-income patients to get yearlong memberships to Hubway, the city's bike-share system, for only $5.

    April 12, 2014

  • Fast, cheap test can help save lives of many babies

    As Easley did more research into her daughter's death, she learned that a pilot program had started just months earlier at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. (Easley had delivered at a different hospital in the Washington area.) The program's goal was to screen every newborn with a simple pulse oximeter test that can help detect heart problems such as Veronica's, allowing doctors to respond.

    April 10, 2014

  • 140407_GT_OUT_Forster_1.jpg Revolutionary War flag could fetch millions at auction

    MANCHESTER, MASS. - An iconic piece of history from the Revolutionary War is up for auction through Doyle New York, an auction and appraising company in New York City.

    April 10, 2014 1 Photo

House Ads
Seasonal Content