Over the years, Congress has always found a way to renew tax extenders such as breaks for research and development, equipment depreciation, even rum production.
But like other recent episodes — transportation, the budget, the payroll tax cut and the debt limit — House Republican leaders are finding the path more unpredictable than before.
Business groups are lobbying for quick action because many of the extenders expired last year, but GOP leaders are juggling election messaging, a broader tax reform effort and concerns from conservatives, said Members and aides.
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is providing rank-and-file Members an update on tax issues this week where the subject could come up, and a Members’ hearing is planned for April to hear from lawmakers on the issue.
In other words, there’s ample opportunity for input.
One concern is ensuring that moving on the tax extenders doesn’t detract from the momentum of the broader tax reform effort.
Tax reform proponents say the legislative landscape has shifted in the past several years in a way that makes a major tax reform bill plausible in the next Congress.
“A few years ago, people said tax reform was impossible. Now it’s starting to move in the direction of being inevitable,” George Callas, staff director for the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures, recently told Roll Call.
Rep. Aaron Schock said the extenders and expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts are dividing attention on tax policy, preventing a focus on broader reform, and that clearing the deck could pave the way for a big reform bill in the 113th Congress.
The Illinois Republican added that House GOP leaders are moving to ensure rank-and-file Republicans understand the extenders aren’t a substitute for a reform bill.
“It’s important they understand this is a stopgap, not a substitute,” he said.
But business groups have been fiercely lobbying for action and expressing their displeasure over the lack of progress on the extenders, a Democratic aide said.
“I think they’re starting to feel the heat,” the source said.
Republicans have hinted that the Members’ hearing could be on April 26. It is traditionally used as a venue for Members to bring all sorts of issues before the committee, the Democratic aide said.
Camp and Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures Chairman Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) issued a statement Thursday announcing that planning sessions on the extenders would begin after the April recess.
A spokeswoman for Camp said the meeting this week “is a precursor to [the] planning sessions.”
Camp’s outreach to Members could also help address concerns among conservatives about alternative energy tax breaks that could be in the package.
Schock and other Republicans are also urging a vote to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for individual income rates before the elections.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.