Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction, says he is working to compile a list of possible changes to the tax code that might draw bipartisan support in the debate on the deficit reduction.
With the question of taxes bedeviling every effort this year to achieve a major deal on the deficit, at least one member of the super committee is pushing revenue changes that he thinks could actually make it to the president’s desk.
Since Democrats on the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction insist that any cuts to entitlements such as Medicare or Social Security be paired with comparable revenue increases, Rep. Chris Van Hollen told Roll Call that he has begun exploring proposals to revise the tax code to produce revenue in ways that Republicans might also be able to support.
In an interview last week, the Maryland Democrat declined to say who might be on board with his effort but acknowledged he was working on it.
“I’ve had conversations with other Members of the committee on this issue,” Van Hollen said. “I do think it’s fair to say that this is an idea that could gain bipartisan support.”
According to sources, Van Hollen has been talking to super committee Republicans, including House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (Mich.) and Sen. Rob Portman (Ohio), about provisions in last year’s Bowles-Simpson plan for deficit reduction, which would cut tax expenditures and reform deductions to bring in more revenue, especially from the highest-earning Americans. The Bowles-Simpson plan came from the president’s commission on deficit reduction.
“The concept is to build on some of the ideas put forward in Simpson-Bowles, but do it in a way that could make more policy sense and be more politically achievable,” Van Hollen said.
Republican aides familiar with the push expressed some concern that the Maryland Democrat is focusing only on individual tax reform as opposed to corporate tax changes, and they said the changes suggested won’t be deficit-neutral. They acknowledged, though, that conversations are taking place and added that many members of the super committee, including Camp, Portman, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), are discussing tax reform ideas both openly in hearings and behind closed doors.
Of course, Van Hollen is not operating off script. Democrats have been pushing for many of the same goals that President Barack Obama has championed since August — increasing revenues from wealthy households, implementing the “Buffett rule” to ensure that millionaires do not pay lower tax rates than middle-class Americans and countering the GOP argument that lower-class families do not pay enough taxes because they do not contribute to federal income tax. Republicans, on the other hand, are reluctant to make any changes that would increase taxes at all, but some have expressed openness to revenue-neutral tax reform.
Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations for the IRS, arrives for a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the investigation of the IRS' targeting of political groups. Lerner invoked her Fifth Amendment right to not testify and caused a protest from some committee members when she offered an opening statement and engaged in dialogue with members before invoking the right.
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