Senators' 'blank slate' submissions trickle out

A pair of top senators closed a month-long outreach effort for tax code suggestions Friday, after facing deep skepticism from colleagues and making an unprecedented offer to protect confidentiality.

More than a half dozen senators, including members of both parties, released written suggestions to Finance Chairman Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBooker tries to find the right lane  Top Lobbyists 2017: Hired Guns GOP tries to keep spotlight on taxes amid Mueller charges MORE (D-Mont.) and Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchProminent conservative passes on Utah Senate bid Republicans offer this impossible choice: Tax cuts or senior care Senate GOP running out of options to stop Moore MORE (R-Utah) on Friday, joining a handful of lawmakers who publicized their suggestions earlier in the week.

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Baucus has said he plans to mark up a tax reform bill in the fall, and that he plans to take the submissions into account as he works toward a bipartisan bill.

But the suggestions senators released Friday were often general and painted with a broad brush – not the “legislative language or detailed proposals” about which tax breaks should remain in a blank code that Baucus and Hatch had asked from their 98 other colleagues.

Since their June letter, Baucus and Hatch have also seen more than a couple senators keep their process at arm’s length – not least, Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidVirginia was a wave election, but without real change, the tide will turn again Top Lobbyists 2017: Grass roots Boehner confronted Reid after criticism from Senate floor MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellAlabama election has GOP racing against the clock McConnell PAC demands Moore return its money Klobuchar taking over Franken's sexual assault bill MORE (R-Ky.).

Reid told reporters Thursday that he wouldn’t take part in the “blank slate” process – that he had, in fact, never actually read Baucus and Hatch’s letter. The Nevada Democrat added that the $975 billion in new revenues included in the Senate budget should be a starting point for Baucus.

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McConnell, meanwhile, has repeatedly said that Democrats view tax reform as a stalking horse for tax increases.

Other senators have also expressed concern about the revenue divide, to the point of questioning whether the blank slate process made sense while that issue is unsettled. In some cases, senators were also worried about their confidential submissions leaking out – to the point that Baucus and Hatch have promised they’ll remain locked away until at least the end of 2064.

The senators who released blank slate submissions on Friday include:

Sen. Jay RockefellerJay RockefellerOvernight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term Obama to preserve torture report in presidential papers MORE (D-W.Va.) – The second-ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, Rockefeller noted to Baucus and Hatch that he’d already met with them personally more than a couple times since 2011.

To that end, Rockefeller noted that his key priority is rolling back income inequality. The West Virginia Democrat – who has openly said the blank slate gave too much power to Baucus and Hatch – also called for strengthening refundable tax credits, and called the $975 billion figure a “worthy goal.”

Sen. Mike CrapoMichael (Mike) Dean CrapoScott Garrett poses real threat to EXIM Bank, small businesses Usually friendly, GOP may anger big banks with tax plans Overnight Finance: Trump calls for ObamaCare mandate repeal, cuts to top tax rate | Trump to visit Capitol Hill in tax reform push | CBO can't do full score before vote | Bipartisan Senate bill would ease Dodd-Frank rules MORE (R-Idaho) – A member of the Bowles-Simpson commission, Crapo told Baucus and Hatch that tax reform should build on that framework – no more than three tax brackets, lower rates on capital gains and shielding offshore corporate income for taxation.

But Crapo, another Finance member, did not offer suggestions on which tax breaks should be chopped, and said that the best possible outcome would be a flat tax. Either way, the Idaho Republican added, tax reform should be revenue-neutral.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinTop Dem: Lawmakers taking 'more active role' in Trump foreign policy Questions loom over Franken ethics probe State Dept. spokeswoman acknowledges 'morale issue' MORE (D-Md.) – Cardin, also a Finance member, did not publicly release a letter, but did outline several priorities in a Friday statement. Among them: Increasing or keeping the current progressivity in the code; incentives for clean energy; protecting tax breaks for retirement; and even a possible progressive consumption tax.

Sen. Mike EnziMichael (Mike) Bradley EnziGOP senators ask Trump for meeting on biofuels mandate Senate budget just the latest attack on seniors Week ahead: GOP's next steps on tax reform | Fed chief speculation heats up | Senate to vote on disaster relief MORE (R-Wyo.) – In his letter, Enzi notes that he’s the only accountant on the Finance Committee. The Wyoming Republican also suggested that Baucus and Hatch take a look at two of his previous pieces of legislation, one that updates tax filing deadlines and another that reforms the global tax rules for corporations.

Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Collins: Pass bipartisan ObamaCare bills before mandate repeal Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  MORE (D-Fla.) – Yet another Finance member, Nelson told Baucus and Hatch that each tax break should expire in 10 years or less – unless lawmakers specifically vote to reup them. Such a setup, Nelson said, could keep new preferences benefitting special interests from sneaking into the tax code.

The Florida Democrat also takes aim at tax breaks for oil and pharmeceutical companies, and incentives for offshoring. But Nelson also stressed that not all tax breaks – the ones that benefit average taxpayers over special interests – are bad.

Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyDemocrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Indiana Dems: GOP has double standard on donations from alleged assaulters GOP campaign committees call on Democrats to return Franken donations MORE (D-Ind.) – Donnelly keeps it general in his three paragraph letter to Baucus and Hatch, calling for protecting the middle class and encouraging business investment. The Indiana Democrat does say that any tax reform should raise revenue.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDe Blasio headed to Iowa to speak at political fundraiser Yes, spills happen — but pipelines are still the safest way to move oil Why sexual harassment discussions include lawmakers talking about Bill Clinton’s past MORE (I-Vt.) – Sanders, among the more liberal members of the Senate, pointedly declined Baucus and Hatch’s offer to protect confidentiality. “Given the fact that my suggestions represent the interests of the middle class of this country and not powerful corporate special interests, I have no problem with making them public,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator also calls for a Wall Street speculation tax, anti-offshoring measures, a carbon tax and higher capital gains and dividends rates for the wealthiest.

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCongress must end American support for Saudi war in Yemen Jones raised 0K a day after first Moore accusers came forward: report Senate Democrats introduce bill to block Trump's refugee ban MORE (D-Conn.) – Murphy’s letter broadly calls for protecting the middle class and raising revenue. The Connecticut Democrat notes that a family making $200,000 a year can be considered middle class in his state. But sitting next door to Wall Street, he also suggests that policymakers consider whether capital gains should be taxed as ordinary income.

Infrastructure and retirement savings, on the other hand, should be incentivized in the tax code, Murphy says.

Other senators, like Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinStates fill family caregiver void left by Congress Democrats scramble to contain Franken fallout  Dem PAC bullish on Senate chances MORE (D-Wis.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingFeinstein seeks contact with FBI informant in Russia nuclear bribery case Overnight Finance: Trump calls for ObamaCare mandate repeal, cuts to top tax rate | Trump to visit Capitol Hill in tax reform push | CBO can't do full score before vote | Bipartisan Senate bill would ease Dodd-Frank rules Overnight Regulation: Bipartisan Senate bill would curb Dodd-Frank rules | Opioid testing rule for transport workers finalized | Google faces state antitrust probe | Dems want investigation into FCC chief MORE (I-Maine), have told The Hill they were also make their submissions public. Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSpokesman: Flake’s vote on tax reform will have nothing to do with Trump Trump slams Flake over hot-mic comments: Senator's career is 'toast' Bannon: McConnell 'picking up his game' because of our 'insurgent movement' MORE (R-Ariz.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCongress faces growing health care crisis in Puerto Rico The Hill's 12:30 Report Colbert mocks Trump for sipping water during speech on Asia trip MORE (R-Fla.) released their letters earlier this week.

Rubio’s letter chides senators who want to use tax reform to either raise taxes or redistribute income, and calls for any bill to be marked up in committee and go through an open amendment process on the Senate floor.

A spokesman for Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara BoxerBarbara Boxer recounts harassment on Capitol Hill: ‘The entire audience started laughing’ 100 years of the Blue Slip courtesy Four more lawmakers say they’ve been sexually harassed by colleagues in Congress MORE (D-Calif.) told The Hill that Boxer’s letter called for protecting a range of popular – and expensive – tax breaks: The deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes, as well as the credit for research and development. Boxer also seeks to protect entitlement programs, incentivize renewable energy and education, and fund highway programs.

Katie Tank and Meredith Bentsen contributed.