By Erik Wasson
Lew praises Baucus draft international tax plan
Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on Tuesday offered praise for a new international tax reform plan that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) plans to unveil to colleagues later in the morning.
“I think it’s a very constructive step he’s putting forward,” Lew said.
He said that the Baucus plan shares “significant” elements to the tax reform idea that President Obama put forth in his 2014 budget request, and that he is hopeful corporate tax reform can move forward.
“The onetime savings…we think would be an enormous shot in the arm for the economy,” he said at a Wall Street Journal CEO Council event. “I am hoping this conversation still can move forward.”
Baucus is moving forward on tax reform even though his colleague Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has decided to hold off on presenting his own ideas until January. Republicans are keen to make sure they do not give any opening on possible tax loophole closures now, when the budget conference committee is still meeting and Democrats are insisting on using the tax changes to pay for more spending.
Lew said that if Republicans cannot agree to new tax revenue a budget grand bargain is not happending.
"If that is not a possibility for Republicans then something large is not likely," he said. But he said the budget conference could still come up with a small deal by its Dec. 13 deadline.
He said that "anything they do to show they can work together, to sort of chip away," could instill needed confidence in Washington.
Lew predicted that Congress will raise the debt ceiling in a business-like manner before the Feb. 7 expiration but that he can employ extraordinary measures for a month more if not. Republicans are not eager for a repeat of October's standoff when their poll numbers tankied, he said.
"It’s clear that was not a good experience for the country or for them politically," he said.
Lew said that on his just-completed trip to China he was questioned about the debt ceiling and he reassured the United States' largest foreign creditor that the debt ceiling matter is not one to be concerned about.