Obama: Tax reform bigger than Baucus

President Obama said Friday that Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’s departure didn’t have to mean the death of tax reform.

Obama officially nominated Baucus (D-Mont.) to be his envoy to China on Friday, a move that lobbyists and lawmakers alike have said puts even more of a damper on the chances for tax reform next year.

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“If Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate are serious about tax reform, then it’s not going to depend on one guy,” Obama said at a news conference. “It’s going to depend on all of us working together.”

Democrats and Republicans are already deeply divided about whether a reformed tax code should raise more revenue. That’s perhaps the biggest – but far from the only – obstacle that Baucus and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have run into in trying to move tax reform forward this year.

Obama also reiterated on Friday that the White House would not negotiate over the debt ceiling, another deadline that could spark some progress on tax reform.

Still, the president said his administration was more than willing to do its part on tax reform.

“My office is ready, willing and eager to engage both parties in having a conversation about how we can simplify the tax code,” he said.

At the same time, lawmakers in both parties have complained that the White House isn’t engaged in tax reform the way that President Reagan was in 1986, the last time the tax code was overhauled. Lawmakers predict that the president will have to make the issue more of a priority for tax reform to succeed.