The latest attempt to make the biggest change to the U.S. tax code in 29 years isn’t just an exercise, the top Senate Republican tax-law writer said.
Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said “cynics” shouldn’t discount the possibility of bipartisan progress.
“This is not theater, nor is it just for show,” Hatch said Tuesday in a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington. “I don’t want to just release a framework or a proposal that doesn’t go anywhere. My only goal when it comes to tax reform is to make new law.”
Hatch, who created five bipartisan working groups on taxes last week, said he hopes the Finance panel can hold votes on a major tax bill later this year.
It’s a daunting task.
Hatch, 80, said he wants to lower individual rates and avoid raising taxes or widening budget deficits.
President Barack Obama, by contrast, wants to increase taxes on top earners, and the tax debate will play out with another presidential election looming.
Obama will outline a plan in Tuesday’s State of the Union address to increase capital gains taxes on the highest earners and use the proceeds to expand tax credits for middle-income families.
“It sounds to me like just robbing others so they can play political games with it,” Hatch said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. “We have a lot of ineffectual programs, a lot of areas we could cut out and pay for the things he’d like to.”
Jason Furman, the chairman of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said the president’s proposals would help “unstick capital” and help middle-class families.
“These all have a strong economic logic to them,” he said Tuesday on cable television channel CNBC.
At the chamber, Hatch also outlined the rest of the Finance Committee agenda for this year.
On trade, an issue where he and Obama largely agree, Hatch said he will move “carefully but quickly” to give the president fast-track negotiating authority. That would let Congress have an up-or-down vote on any trade deal, without amendments.
That approach, Hatch said, “actually enhances Congress’s role in trade negotiations by giving specific direction to the administration as to what they need to deliver to get an agreement through Congress.”
Hatch on Bloomberg TV said he wants Obama to advocate strongly for the trade authority.
The committee’s first bill will be a House-passed measure that exempts some veterans from Obamacare’s employer mandate.
The panel also will work on finding money for highways, reauthorizing the children’s health insurance plan and repealing pieces of Obamacare such as the excise tax on medical devices.
Hatch, who several times noted the wide berth of the Finance Committee’s jurisdiction, said he wanted to work on major changes to entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security.
“If we do not face the fact that our entitlement promises are unsustainable, and do nothing to place them on a sustainable path,” he said, “then simple budget arithmetic means that our taxes will not just rise but rise significantly over time.”