Odds of U.S. Corporate Tax Overhaul Only 50-50, Boehner Says

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, center, speaks while Harry Reid, Democratic Senator from Nevada, left, and Mitch McConnell, Republican Senator from Kentucky, listen after meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.

Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

House Speaker John Boehner said a long-sought overhaul of U.S. corporate tax law has barely an even chance of being enacted by Congress this year, though both chambers are under Republican control.

The Ohio Republican cited a “50-50 chance at best” during an interview Thursday with Bloomberg.

“The challenge there is how do you deal with 70 percent of American businesses that don’t pay corporate tax rates,” said Boehner, referring to partnerships and S corporations, whose taxes are paid on owners’ individual tax returns.

“It will be very difficult to do corporate tax reform without also the pass-through entities,” he said.

President Barack Obama and many Democrats and Republicans, including House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan, agree that they want to lower the corporate tax rate from 35 percent and curb business tax breaks to help pay for it. They would leave individual rates alone to avoid a politically charged fight.

The difficulty is that millions of U.S. companies pay taxes through individual returns instead of the corporate tax system. Those businesses say they would lose valued tax breaks without getting any benefit from a corporate rate cut. Lawmakers say they’re trying to come up with a solution.

In Thursday’s interview, Boehner also said that Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are good public servants but have explaining to do about their charitable foundation. He said her handling of official e-mails as secretary of state broke the law.

‘Good People’

“They’re good people, but there’s questions that have to be answered,” said Boehner, responding to a question about whether the Democratic presidential candidate and the former president are ethically and morally fit.

Boehner was referring to issues concerning the Clintons’ foundation and its acceptance of donations from foreign governments, as well as the former secretary of state’s use of private e-mail and a private server. He suggested the U.S. House could ultimately resort to issuing a subpoena for the server.

A stand-off on releasing some of those e-mails has become a flashpoint in a House select committee investigation into the September 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya.

During the interview conducted at the Capitol, Boehner said there is a “50-50” chance that Clinton could be elected president, yet wouldn’t say who he wants to be the Republican nominee.

“I know the field. I am not endorsing anybody,” Boehner said.

‘Exemplary’ Governor

Asked whether he has been nudging Jeb Bush to run, Boehner said, “Jeb and I have been friends for a long time” and that he thought Bush’s track record as Florida governor was “exemplary.”

On a more personal note, Boehner picked football over baseball as the national pastime. He said he grew up a baseball fan and is still a big supporter of the Cincinnati Reds.

Boehner, 65, who became speaker in 2011, said he doesn’t intend to serve in that position beyond age 70.

He said he wants to remain speaker “way less” than 10 years. “I’m not going to be here forever.”

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