Sure, health care is sucking up much of the oxygen on Capitol Hill these days, but issues like tax and trade are never far away or far from the minds of the movers and shakers on the Hill and the people who seek to influence them. Here are 10 staffers who play important roles in shaping tax and trade policies.
Pat Bousliman, professional staff, Senate Finance Committee
Birthplace: Helena, Mont.
Education: B.A., University of Montana
Bousliman began working for Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) in 1997 after serving in the Peace Corps in Tanzania. The job was expected to last a few short months but has grown into a 12-year career that shows little signs of stopping.
I thought my stay on the Hill would be relatively short-term, Bousliman said. But I loved the work, and Ive been here since.
Bousliman worked in Baucus personal office for two years before joining the Finance Committee as a health care staffer. In 2006, his specialty changed to energy and transportation, where he works on issues like renewable energy tax breaks as well as the Highway Trust Fund and appropriations for aviation. He is currently focused on climate change.
Generally, its climate legislation and energy tax incentives, he said of his workload. The climate bill is the big goal, but the tax code has become more and more important to energy policy in the last few years.
Bousliman hopes to prepare a cap-and-trade bill before world leaders meet in Copenhagen later this fall to spell out rules for reducing carbon emissions. The meeting is expected to take place in December, but it is unclear whether Congress will approve a climate bill before then.
I think you could view energy tax incentives to continue regardless, as a way to transition to a carbon-constrained economy, he said.
Bousliman admits to having a few unreturned phone calls to advocacy groups, but lobbyists say he is the go-to guy on energy.
He skillfully manages the energy tax and climate change portfolio issues that require a thorough understanding of tax, energy policy, state interests and politics, one lobbyist said. No one understands how all this comes together better than Pat.
However, those calling on Bousliman better bring ideas for how to pay for their incentives.
Given the fiscal situation, I think people are going to have to be creative about offsetting the costs of their proposals, he said. There are a lot of great ideas for energy tax incentives out there, but finding ways to pay for them is increasingly challenging.
John Buckley, Democratic chief tax counsel, House Ways and Means Committee
Birthplace: Hartford, Wis.
Education: J.D., University of Wisconsin; attended Notre Dame University (no degree)
Except for a one-month stint in the private sector back in 1994, Buckley has been a Congressional aide for 36 years. Over those decades, he has had a hand in nearly all the major tax bills.
His knowledge of the intricacies of the tax code is pretty much unparalleled, one longtime tax lobbyist said.
Added another veteran tax lobbyist said: Hes the brightest of the crowd. Hes got a very good command of the subject matter, better than anybody else up there, which in tax is a huge advantage.