Tax reformers ready to hit the road

The top two tax-writers in Congress on Friday said they plan to take their push for tax reform on the road.

House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), in a joint appearance, said that traveling around the country would give them a greater sense of what local businesses and ordinary citizens would like to see in a rewritten tax code.

“We’re going on road trips,” Camp said at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “We are going to talk to business owners, and families and individuals, and really try to get a read from around the country.”

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Those trips are part of a series of new efforts on tax reform the chairmen expect to roll out, as they look to channel anger at the IRS into their longstanding efforts to rewrite the code for the first time in a quarter century. Baucus and Camp already launched a new website and Twitter account last month.

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Baucus said Friday that his committee soon would be working on more “concrete” proposals for tax reform.

“Stay tuned,” Baucus said. “It’s coming.”

Senate Finance is currently in the final stages of working through a series of 10 option papers on tax reform — with the ninth of those, released Thursday, dealing with tax-exempt organizations. The scandal that has shaken the IRS in recent weeks revolves around the agency’s targeting of Tea Party groups that were seeking tax-exempt status.

The two tax-writing committees are also going to hold joint bipartisan meetings on reform, and Camp noted that he had already started meeting one-on-one with every member of Ways and Means.

Both chairmen also stressed that, while they were moving tax reform through the committee process, the upcoming debate over the debt ceiling could give the final push. According to current estimates, the debt ceiling might not need to be raised until October — and not before the August recess, as had once been expected.

Baucus said that he agreed with President Obama that the debt ceiling should be raised without any strings attached, but also acknowledged that was unlikely to happen with the current Congress.

“Sometimes you need a deadline,” Baucus said.

Camp, meanwhile, noted that debt ceiling raises have frequently been attached to other policy changes in the past, and that the House GOP has already started discussing what they’d like to see paired with an increase.

“I don’t think you’re going to see decisions made about that until after the August recess now,” Camp said.