Dems don't trust GOP to overhaul tax code

Republicans' plan to overhaul the nation's tortuous tax code in 2013 has met a rising wall of skepticism from House Democrats, who are doubting both the sincerity and the effectiveness of the GOP proposal.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer offered the latest denunciation Wednesday, noting that House Republicans — including Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) — had opposed the tax overhaul in the Bowles-Simpson deficit plan because it included a hike in some marginal rates.

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The Maryland Democrat said he has little faith that Republicans are ready to soften their position under their new overhaul proposal. His quick rejection of even an outline of the GOP's tax-policy wish list casts new doubts that the parties can reach a deal on the issue even in a non-election year.

"The premises are unrealistic and will not accomplish the objectives of either reforming taxes or reducing our deficit," Hoyer said during his weekly press briefing in the Capitol. "We don't think [the GOP's] proposal is a very reasonable proposal."

He's hardly alone; a day earlier, Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.) had even sharper words for the Republicans' tax-policy plans. In an exchange with Camp before the Rules Committee, McGovern said he doesn't trust GOP leaders to follow through with vows to consider scrapping tax loopholes for oil companies and other big corporations, as Camp moments earlier said they would consider.

"You've been in charge for awhile and you haven't done it," McGovern said, "so I don't have a lot of confidence in that."

Sponsored by House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.), the Republicans' tax-overhaul proposal creates a broad, targeted outline for Congress to revamp the tax code next year — an issue both sides agree needs tackling. The bill does not include many details, instead requiring congressional leaders to introduce specific language before May 2013.

Among the few specifics, the proposal would require lawmakers to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25 percent, consolidate the number of individual brackets from six to two — at 10 and 25 percent — repeal the alternative minimum tax, and maintain a tax base between 18 and 19 percent of the gross domestic product.

Camp said this week that the Republicans' bill to extend all the Bush-era tax rates for an additional year has been proposed to buy lawmakers the time to overhaul the tax system per Dreier's companion measure.

While Democrats are talking about raising certain tax rates, Camp said, Republicans want "comprehensive reform of our entire code."

"There will be more revenue from a pro-growth [tax code]," Camp said.

Democrats, however, aren't buying that argument. Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), senior Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, amplified the Democrats' argument that a tax overhaul that fails to raise certain tax rates — particularly on the wealthiest Americans — will lead to higher deficits.

"You're going to claim that growth creates revenues," Levin said, "and that was the mythology of the Bush years."

House Republicans are expected to pass the Dreier bill on a largely party-line vote this week, though it's highly unlikely the Democratic-controlled Senate will take it up.