Election Politics Shouldn’t Stop Tax Revamp, Camp Says

Congress can make progress toward revamping the U.S. tax code this year and shouldn’t wait until after the November election, said Representative Dave Camp, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Camp, who released his proposed changes to the tax code last week, said the U.S. is “way behind” countries like Canada and Mexico in simplifying its tax system.

“I think nine months is a long time to coast,” he said today at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.

The political odds are stacked against Camp, a Michigan Republican. Lawmakers disagree about whether tax changes should be used to raise revenue and many are wary about endorsing changes that would curtail long-standing tax breaks for charitable contributions and home mortgage interest.

Camp’s plan would reduce individual and corporate tax rates in a way that doesn’t increase the budget deficit over the next decade or shift the tax burden away from high-income individuals.

It would curtail tax breaks for oil companies and private-equity managers and impose a new quarterly 3.5 basis-point tax on assets above $500 billion for the largest U.S. banks and insurers.

Democratic Suggestions

The proposal puts Republicans on record endorsing many tax increases Democrats have suggested. They should be considered only in the context of a revenue-neutral tax plan, Camp said.

“I wouldn’t touch the home mortgage deduction if it was for more Washington spending,” he said.

Republican leaders haven’t endorsed the plan’s details or committed to allowing a House floor vote.

Camp said he plans to hold public hearings on his 979-page draft and said the public shouldn’t discount the possibility of action.

“I’m not just going to settle for mediocrity,” Camp said. “I’m not going to settle for things the way they are, and I don’t think the American people are either.”

House Republican rules mean that Camp’s time as Ways and Means chairman is slated to conclude at the end of 2014, limiting his ability to shape the debate.

He declined to say whether he would seek a waiver to continue as chairman beyond the six-year limit. He criticized the rules, which counted his two years as the top Republican on the Ways and Means panel -- before the party took the majority in 2010 -- toward the limit.

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