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Summer Tax Cut Vote Could Boost GOP Strategy

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo
House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp has been meeting with Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans on a potential summer vote on tax cuts.

House GOP leadership is considering linking a short-term extension of the expiring Bush-era tax cuts to an overhaul of the tax system this summer, aiming to give its party a campaign talking point and to pressure Senate Democrats to act.

While the details of the plan are very much up in the air, one option being considered is passing a bill extending the 2001 and 2003 tax rates for one year along with a resolution affirming GOP principles for tax reform.

The measures could also include some form of fast-track authority, much like the power granted to the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, to expedite floor consideration of a tax reform plan in 2013, when the Bush-era tax cuts would again expire.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has already stated he wants to vote on an extension of the tax cuts before the November elections, and a vote could come as soon as June or July. That would give Republicans an opportunity to tell constituents they voted to keep taxes low while Senate Democrats demurred.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have been holding closed-door meetings with rank-and-file GOP Members on the subject.

Any decision to move forward with a vote this summer would be strictly an effort on the part of Boehner and Camp to lay down a political marker because neither Democrats nor Republicans expected serious negotiations on the tax cuts to begin until after the elections.

Boehner’s strategic decision to bring taxes to the floor this summer could serve two key purposes for Republicans.

It could provide the Conference an opportunity to set itself apart from Democrats on a hot-button issue such as taxes. It also provides Boehner an opportunity to begin to set the parameters of the lame-duck session.

Over the past 18 months, House Republicans feel they have had their most success when they’ve been able to effectively paint Democrats in the Senate and the Obama administration as being unwilling to work with the GOP or provide their own proposals. “Where’s your plan?” was a GOP mantra during a number of last year’s spending debates.

But when Republicans have been divided for long periods of time — most notably on the debt ceiling increase and the payroll tax cut extension — Boehner has been hamstrung and forced into agreements many Republicans didn’t favor.

Getting in front of Democrats will provide Boehner with months to hammer the administration and Senate Democrats and try to frame the lame-duck session in Republicans’ favor.

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