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House GOP: We can move tax reform bill without Dem votes

Republican tax writers in the House say they’re willing to move a tax reform bill out of the Ways and Means Committee without Democratic votes. 

Top GOP members of the panel acknowledge that passing a bipartisan product would give the House more leverage and stress they’re still looking to win over committee Democrats.

But Republicans also maintain that some of the major differences between the two parties on tax policy — especially whether a rewritten code should raise more revenue — aren’t likely to be solved at the committee level.

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With that in mind, Republicans say that even though a tax reform bill will have to be bipartisan to eventually gain President Obama’s signature, that doesn’t mean every vote along the way needs to be bipartisan.

“I’d be satisfied if the House passed its best idea of pro-growth reform, and the Senate passed its best idea, whatever the vote structure might be,” said Rep. Kevin BradyKevin Patrick BradyTrump gets recommendation for steep curbs on imported steel, risking trade war Business groups pressing for repeal of ObamaCare employer mandate Watchdog: IRS issued bonuses to employees with conduct issues MORE (R-Texas), a senior Ways and Means member. 

“I think it’s going to be difficult anyway — just tax reform by itself is, at every step of the way. Which is why it’s just important to keep taking those steps.”

GOP tax-writers are talking up the bipartisan process that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) has employed on tax reform, something they say is a stark contrast to the way Democrats pushed through their healthcare law in 2009 and 2010. 

Camp worked with the top Democrat on Ways and Means, Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), to set up bipartisan working groups to study tax policy this year. 

The Ways and Means chairman is also meeting individually with each committee member, and he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben Baucus2020 Dems pose a big dilemma for Schumer Steady American leadership is key to success with China and Korea Orrin Hatch, ‘a tough old bird,’ got a lot done in the Senate MORE (D-Mont.) told reporters on Friday that they are setting up bipartisan lunches involving both chambers. The first of those gatherings will likely happen before the July 4 recess, a GOP aide said.

Still, Camp, who has vowed to pass a tax overhaul out of his committee this year, clearly expects some bumps along the way, saying last week that he fully expected the Senate and the House to craft different bills. 

“I’m meeting with every Democrat on my committee. Many of them say they would like to see more revenue. And I just say: ‘Look, let’s not go to our corners,’ ” Camp said. “I don’t think it’s productive to focus on where we disagree.”

Camp’s comments come as he and Baucus are trying to harness the anger over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups into momentum for tax reform. 

Baucus and Camp are planning a barnstorming tour of the country to sell tax reform. They also insist they’re committed to using the committee process, though they add that high-profile negotiations over the debt ceiling could give tax reform a needed push. 

Democrats on Ways and Means say they believe that Camp’s outreach to them has been sincere.

“I think people understand that the status quo is not sustainable over the long haul,” Rep. Earl BlumenauerEarl BlumenauerSessions' war on marijuana a handout for illegal operators Fox's Wallace: 'It's a mistake' for Dems to boycott State of the Union WHIP LIST: Dems boycotting Trump’s State of the Union MORE (D-Ore.) told The Hill. “People want the committee to succeed, and we’ve got a whole host of things out there that require attention and action.” 

Still, committee members from both parties say a large chunk of Democratic tax-writers won’t vote for any overhaul that is revenue-neutral, meaning it wouldn’t immediately increase what the government collects. 

Senate Democrats passed a budget calling for close to $1 trillion in new revenues, while Republicans have said that the fiscal-cliff deal signed early this year is as far as they’ll go on tax hikes. Baucus has said that reform should increase revenues, but said the Senate budget went too far.

A Democratic aide pointed out that the real horse trading has not yet begun, and that Republicans would be making a mistake if they didn’t work with Democrats to write a bipartisan product — especially given how partisan tensions have risen on Capitol Hill. 

“If you can’t do a bipartisan vote from the get go, that’s not a good sign,” the aide said. 

“I’m hopeful maybe we can peel away a few [Democratic] votes,” said Rep. Charles BoustanyCharles William BoustanyDems face hard choice for State of the Union response Americans worried about retirement should look to employee ownership Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns MORE (R-La.), another senior Ways and Means member. 

But Boustany also said there was “a certain discipline” among Democrats. “They’ll probably try to hold the line,” the Louisiana Republican told The Hill.

Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) told reporters that four or five of the 16 Democrats on Ways and Means could vote for a revenue-neutral reform, though he wouldn’t be one of them.

Republicans have pointed to Ways and Means members like Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.) and Ron KindRonald (Ron) James KindIt's time we start using 'The Investing in Opportunity Act' Americans worried about retirement should look to employee ownership House passes concealed carry gun bill MORE (D-Wis.) as lawmakers they think they can work with.

“I think he’d rather have it bipartisan,” Pascrell said about Camp. 

Crowley is a member of the Democratic leadership team, as is Rep. Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraCourt rules Energy Dept. must implement Obama efficiency rules California secession supporters file new initiative Overnight Finance: Breaking down Trump's budget | White House finally releases infrastructure plan | Why it faces a tough road ahead | GOP, Dems feud over tax-cut aftermath | Markets rebound MORE (Calif.), who also sits on the committee.

Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee that deals with taxes, added that he fully expects Democratic leaders to pressure Ways and Means members to vote “no.”

“That’s unfortunate, but that’s life,” Tiberi said.

The politics of tax reform remain a challenge for House Republicans. GOP rank and file have expressed concern that they could be forced into a tough vote on to tax reform, only to watch it stall in the Senate. 

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Ohio) has given his blessing to Camp’s efforts, after voicing similar concerns. Republicans also think some more conservative Democrats would back their tax overhaul on the House floor. 

Many on Capitol Hill say it wouldn’t be very hard for Camp to pass a tax reform bill through his committee, where Republicans enjoy a 23-16 advantage. Passing a tax measure on the House floor along party lines would be a significant challenge, however, as Republicans have struggled to pass high-profile bills without Democratic votes.

In February, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE reserved the highly coveted H.R. 1 for tax reform, saying at the time, “Fixing our tax code is one of my highest legislative priorities for this Congress.” 

House Republicans don’t believe Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidWATCH: There is no Trump-Russia collusion and the media should stop pushing this The demise of debate in Congress ‘North by Northwest,’ the Carter Page remake MORE (D-Nev.) feels the same way.

Yet, Camp has noted that Obama’s latest budget called for a revenue-neutral overhaul of the corporate tax system, an area where Republicans and Democrats have found more common ground. 

“Clearly, there’s going to be some fault lines in the process,” said centrist Rep. Jim GerlachJames (Jim) GerlachFormer reps: Increase support to Ukraine to deter Russia With Trump and GOP Congress, job creators can go on offense Big names free to lobby in 2016 MORE (R-Pa.).

But, he added, “Every opportunity has been given to the other side of the aisle to give us the input.”