OPIOID SERIES:

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 BaucusGreen Party puts Dem seat at risk in Montana Business groups worried about Trump's China tariffs plan Farmers hit Trump on trade in new ad MORE (D-Mont.) and Sen. Orrin HatchOrrin Grant HatchGOP senators raise concerns about babies on Senate floor House passes series of bills to improve IRS Senators, staffers lament the end of 50 Most Beautiful 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 Mason ReidDems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination The Memo: Teens rankle the right with gun activism Dems to party: Go on offense with Trump’s alleged affairs MORE (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnell32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd FreedomWorks backs Jim Jordan for House Speaker 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 RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight 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 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 CrapoWatchdog files complaint GOP senator did not report fundraisers held at condo co-owned by lobbyist’s wife Overnight Finance: Mulvaney asks Congress to retake power over consumer agency | Backs House in fight over Dodd-Frank rollback | Why Corker thinks tax cuts could be one of his 'worst votes' ever | House panel advances IRS reform bills Mulvaney backs House efforts to amend Senate Dodd-Frank rollback 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 CardinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting Key Dem to oppose Pompeo nomination 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 EnziSupreme Court weighs future of online sales taxes The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight Budget chairman floats plan to eliminate his own committee 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 NelsonScott ramps up spending to million in Florida Senate race Overnight Energy: Trump NASA pick advances after drama | White House office to investigate Pruitt's soundproof booth | 170 lawmakers call for Pruitt to resign Trump's NASA nominee advances after floor drama 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 DonnellyHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination 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) SandersSanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Bill Press reflects on Clinton, Sanders and a life in politics Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan 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 MurphyOvernight Cybersecurity: Senators want info on 'stingray' surveillance in DC | Bills to secure energy infrastructure advance | GOP lawmaker offers cyber deterrence bill Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Dems give muted praise to Pompeo-Kim meeting 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 BaldwinDem senators unveil expanded public option for health insurance Dem senators call on FCC to protect against robocalls GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems MORE (D-Wis.) and Angus KingAngus Stanley KingHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Trump checkmates Democrats in sending Pompeo to North Korea Dems walk tightrope on Pompeo nomination MORE (I-Maine), have told The Hill they were also make their submissions public. Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeHeitkamp becomes first Dem to back Pompeo for secretary of State Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE (R-Ariz.) and Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioSenate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA The Hill's 12:30 Report Steps Congress can take to defend America against foreign influence operations 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 Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response 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.