Wyden, Coats continue to make case for tax-reform bill

Wyden and Coats’s comments came a day after former Treasury Secretary James Baker and former Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.), both major figures in the 1986 tax overhaul, said that tax reform should be removed from the politicized discussion over budget deficits.

But Coats told The Hill after the Heritage event that the partnership he has formed with Wyden is going to be necessary to bridge ideological divides on a host of issues.

“This is a serious effort by two very serious people to put together something that I think can gain bipartisan support and transcend the political,” said Coats. “And if we’re not able to do that in a whole number of areas — whether it’s defense spending or whether it’s the tax code or whether it’s cutting spending, fiscal discipline and so forth — we’re not going to achieve any success.”

The Wyden-Coats bill — which is very similar to a proposal the Oregon Democrat released last year with then-Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) — cuts the corporate tax rate to a flat 24 percent, down from a current top rate of 35 percent. It would also create three individual tax brackets, down from the current six, at 15 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent.

On Thursday, the two senators stressed that the Wyden-Gregg legislation had been deemed revenue-neutral. But they added that it would also create conditions for economic growth, which Heritage projected to be roughly $61 billion a year.

The senators’ measure, introduced earlier this week, comes at the same time as the House GOP’s 2012 budget, which proposes to cut both the top individual and corporate rates to 25 percent. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposed decreasing rates to that level last month.

At the Heritage event, both Wyden and Coats said that the Ryan proposal was a challenge for them in dealing with their fellow party members, but also showed a broader interest in tax reform.

“We want to start the debate on how we go forward, not only with the 2012 budget but what the implications are for future years out. We want to be part of that debate,” Coats said, adding that he thought Ryan and other Republicans would be interested in working with them on the issue.  

“I can see some Democrats saying: ‘Excuse me, Ron, you’re talking about taking the corporate rate lower than Chairman Camp has actually proposed?’ ” Wyden added. “I can see some people staring at me pretty coldly.”

With all that in mind, the two senators also acknowledged — as has practically every official calling for tax reform — that it could take awhile to get a package enacted, especially with spending and shutdowns currently dominating the discussion on Capitol Hill. 

“We’re obviously not trying to take our legislation into the Senate Finance Committee between now and Friday,” said Wyden, a member of that panel.