The incoming chairman and ranking member of the House Budget Committee faced off Sunday over how their chamber will handle the tax cut deal negotiated by President Barack Obama and Republicans.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who will join the panel next year as ranking member, and other House Democrats oppose an estate tax provision in the proposal, saying Obama was “out-negotiated” on the matter. In response to whether the House will vote on the proposal, Van Hollen insisted on “Fox News Sunday” that the House will “work its will” on the legislation but that “we’re not talking about blocking the whole thing.”
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the current ranking member who will take over the chairmanship in the 112th Congress, expressed relief. “If, what Chris Van Hollen is saying, is they’re going to let this agreement come to a vote ... that’s interesting to me,” he said on the show, adding that he had been under the impression House Democrats would “scuttle this entire agreement.”
The proposal would set a 35 percent tax on estates worth more than $5 million, but Van Hollen and other House Democrats want a 45 percent tax on estates over $3.5 million.
The two sought to blame the other’s party for the standoff, with both wondering whether the other side is willing to allow the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts to expire over the estate tax issue. The tax cuts expire at the end of the year.
“What form the bill takes as it comes to the floor is something that will be decided,” Van Hollen said. “People are looking at various alternatives. Again, the main sticking point for most people ... is this particular issue with the estate tax.”
But Ryan said Republicans are “not interested in changing this deal, we’re interested in passing this through.” He added, “If the Democrats in the House scuttle this deal, that will be the first thing we do, is prevent these job-killing tax increases, and we’ll do it retroactively” after Republicans take control of the majority in the House in January.
Van Hollen also sought to assure taxpayers. “I am confident that when we get to January, there will be no tax increases on middle-income Americans” or top-rate earners, he said.
He added that even though House Democrats are displeased with the president over the terms of the negotiation, he does not expect it to translate to a primary challenge to Obama. “Everybody’s on the same page,” he said.
Van Hollen and Ryan seemed to agree that Congress should pursue tax reform. “I think there are areas of common ground,” Van Hollen said. “I think tax reform next year, where you remove a lot of these deductions and reduce the rates, is something I hope we can find some common ground on going forward.”
Ryan advocated for “good pro-growth tax reform, which is not tax increases but lowering tax rates so we can have economic growth in America.”
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.