President Obama, GOP still differ on tax reform details

Obama did not, however, delve into many details over which tax expenditures he would like to see eliminated. His comments on individual tax reform also came after his administration had previously appeared to be more interested in overhauling the corporate code, with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner telling a congressional panel last week that it was working on its own plan in that area. 

But as Camp – and a host of other Republicans – also noted on Wednesday, Obama also reiterated his desire to see the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest taxpayers expire at the end of next year, which would put the top marginal rate for individuals at close to 40 percent. The president made that same proposal in his fiscal 2012 budget, released in February. 

For their part, Camp and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee and chief architect of the House GOP’s 2012 budget, have called for top tax rates of 25 percent for both individuals and businesses.

“He wants a trillion dollars in revenue,” Camp said.  “Our approach is that we want to have revenue-neutral tax reform. And I think that's the way you get it done.”

“So I stand ready to continue to work on these issues, but I think that much of the approach made it harder for us to do that,” Camp also said. 

With the tax reform discussion mostly general at this point, the differences between Camp and the president appear to reinforce what many officials around Washington have said: that any successful tax reform push would likely take years. 

“You talk to each other, you talk past each other, you do a little hollering, you hear what the base has to say,” Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the ranking member on the House Ways and Means subcommittee for Select Revenue Measures, said Wednesday. 

Ryan’s budget, released last week, has also come under some criticism for lacking tax reform detail as well. As Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), the ranking member on House Ways and Means, noted at a Wednesday hearing, one estimate has said that $2.9 trillion worth of tax expenditures would have to be thrown out to totally offset lowering rates to 25 percent.

Meanwhile, Republicans continue to knock the president for what they call the one concrete proposal in Wednesday’s speech: tax hikes.  

“At a time when millions of our countrymen remain unemployed, the president again proposes tax increases on job creators,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) said at the Wednesday news conference. “If I had an opportunity, I would say, Mr. President, how do you expect to help the job seeker by yet again punishing the job creator? I know of no nation that has ever taxed its way into economic prosperity.”