Top House tax writer opposes administration’s debt commission

House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) blasted the creation of President Barack Obama’s debt commission and questioned its constitutionality since the panel could replace Congress in making tax new law.
 
“If they expand the idea of a commission, it could reach the point that you don’t need the Congress,” he said. “I think it is a bad thing constitutionally, I really do.”

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) also opposed legislation creating a debt panel, which never passed Congress. His office did not respond to inquiries on whether the chairman supported a panel created by the White House.


Obama on Thursday signed an executive order creating a commission tasked with reining in the national debt.  The 18-member panel is expected to be bipartisan and will be headed by former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.


Its primary objective will be creating legislative solutions to reduce the $1.56 trillion deficit, which threatens to balloon in future years as baby-boomers retire in droves and draw from retirement entitlement accounts already weakened by the country’s financial state.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will seek a vote on their suggestions even though he is not legally bound to do so, his staff said.  


“Senator Reid has committed to place the commission's recommendations on the Senate's legislative calendar before the end of the 111th Congress and filing cloture on the motion to proceed,” the staffer said. “If we get the 60 votes needed to proceed, Reid has also committed to filling the amendment tree and filing cloture so that people cannot cherry pick apart the commission's recommendations.”


Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) could also host a vote on suggestions by the panel.


“The president’s fiscal commission represents another step forward in our effort to restore discipline to the budget process,” she said in prepared remarks Thursday.


An obvious fix for the fiscal mess facing the country is for the commission to create a tax code that raises enough revenue for all governmental outlays – a duty normally charged to committees headed by Rangel and Baucus. Both chairman have tried for years to tackle this issue.


“I want to bring down the corporate rate, I really do,” Rangel said. “I think it will make us more competitive, it will help with trade issues.”


In 2007, the New York Congressman introduced tax reform legislation that lowered the corporate rate. It failed to gain traction largely because it levied a surtax on high-income earners. Since then, there has been little committee activity on the reform front.


Baucus also scheduled several hearing on tax reform, but were abandoned as healthcare reform took center stage. Finance member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will reintroduce the subject of tax reform on Tuesday when he unveils legislation co-authored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Sources say its corporate tax rate will be lower than the 28 percent sought by Rangel.


“When Congress returns next week, we will be introducing the product of our collaboration: a comprehensive tax reform bill that will make the federal tax code simpler and fairer for all Americans and businesses of every size,” Wyden said in prepared remarks.


If Reid allows a vote on panel suggestions, it could be deemed as another blow to Baucus. The Majority Leader recently scrapped an $85 billion jobs bill created by the Montana senator and Finance ranking Republican Chuck Grassley (Iowa) to introduce his own, narrowly-focus package containing tax cuts and infrastructure spending.