Wyden: Lame-duck wrong time to debate Bush tax cuts

"The reason why is if you go for one of these two systems, the proposal of George W. Bush or from [the Obama administration], what you will do is you will write into stone a broken tax system for years and years to come," he said, adding, "We will still have thousands and thousands of pages [of tax code]. We will spend enormous amounts of time, preparers and the like, and in my view, very little will change."

President Obama and Democratic leaders have vowed to use the lame-duck session to extend the Bush tax cuts for the middle class. 

Meanwhile, Republicans and a growing number of rank-in-file Democrats have called to extend all the tax breaks to keep from weakening an already listing recovery. 

If both sides refuse to capitulate, there could be a protracted dispute on the issue during the lame-duck.  

Wyden, who has authored a tax reform proposal, prefers directing the discussion toward reform. 

"The key thing I'm looking for is making sure what's done is a bridge to real tax reform," he told The Hill.

The senator supports helping the middle class. He did not say whether he supports extending all the Bush tax cuts to stop the issue from monopolizing debate time during the lame-duck.  

"If you debate the Bush tax cuts versus the Obama idea, both of these proposals would tie America to a broken, flawed, discredited tax system," he said. "To me, the more relevant debate is to have [a discussion] on growth and jobs."

The right-leaning Heritage Foundation states Wyden's reform bill would create 2.3 million jobs annually.  

The legislation streamlines the current code, in part by reducing the number of tax brackets for individuals and eliminating the alternative minimum tax. It also provides a 24 percent corporate tax rate, which some contend should be much lower because the proposal eliminates several corporate deductions.

No matter what happens in the lame-duck, Wyden thinks tax reform will be discussed next year as Obama has already signaled his support for moving on the issue. 

"The fact that the president put this on the table ... I regard as very encouraging," Wyden said. 

Reform discussions have already begun on Capitol Hill, with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) holding a hearing on the issue shortly after the August recess. House Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) is also planning hearings on the subject early next year.