Camp: Tax reform bill to be marked up before debt-ceiling deadline

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) plans to move a tax reform bill before Congress has to deal with the debt ceiling, according to House aides. 

At a closed-door meeting of the panel Wednesday, Camp told his fellow tax writers that he was open to tying tax reform to an increase in the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department has suggested will be needed by November.

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A spokeswoman for Camp would not comment on when the chairman might mark up a tax reform bill but did suggest that the Ways and Means Committee would act within the next several months. 

“Throughout this process the chairman has actively engaged committee members on both sides of the aisle and plans to continue to do so going forward,” Camp spokeswoman Michelle Dimarob told The Hill in a statement. 

“Today’s meeting underscored his willingness to work with all members interested in advancing tax reform and also provided an opportunity to remind members to get ready for a busy fall,” she said.

Camp has said, dating back to last year, that he planned to pass a bill out of his committee in 2013. 

A fall markup keeps Camp on a similar timeline to that of Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), his partner in the tax reform push. Baucus has vowed to hold a markup of a tax reform bill this fall. 

It’s highly unlikely that Camp will be able to push a tax reform measure through the committee in September, however.

House Lawmakers are only in Washington for two full weeks that month and will be preoccupied with trying to hash out an agreement to keep the government funded.

The Wednesday meeting of the Ways and Means panel occurred a day after President Obama reinserted himself into the tax reform debate, linking a plan to rewrite the corporate tax system to new spending on infrastructure and jobs.

GOP lawmakers and some lobbyists said Obama’s newest offer on tax reform far from improved the prospects for an overhaul, with Republicans saying the president was offering no concessions.

Camp, who has added his own wrinkle to the tax reform debate by considering a run for Senate next year, told Ways and Means Committee members that he planned to push a framework similar to the tax revamp that was passed in the House GOP budget this year. 

That plan collapsed the current seven individual tax brackets into two — a 10 percent and a 25 percent bracket — while scrapping the Alternative Minimum Tax. Corporations’ top rate would drop from 35 percent to 25 percent under the plan, which would neither raise nor reduce revenue to the Treasury. 

Camp’s move could serve to harden the partisan divide around tax reform in the House, where Democratic tax writers have roundly rejected the GOP reform priorities and have said that revamping the code should help reduce deficits. 

Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means panel, released new information from the nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) that said the GOP plan would require cutting some $5 trillion in tax preferences to avoid adding to the deficit. 

The Tax Policy Center released similar findings in 2012, when House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was the GOP nominee for vice president. 

Levin and Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), another senior tax writer, said Republicans and Democrats sparred Wednesday over how congressional scorekeepers should consider tax reform bills. 

Camp has said that whatever tax reform bill the committee passes will be scored by the JCT as revenue-neutral under the traditional method of static scoring, which does not try to take into account how the tax changes will affect the economy. 

But Camp has also stated in recent days that the JCT would score a House tax reform bill dynamically as well, meaning the committee would try to project an overhaul’s impact. Many Democrats are skeptical of dynamic scoring. 

“I think there’s a danger they’re going to try to revert to dynamic scoring to help make up this huge difference,” Levin told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting.

A potential Senate run by Camp, who is scheduled to give up his gavel in 2015, would seem to, at best, complicate the Michigan Republican’s tax reform efforts with Baucus.

Camp told reporters that he was in the early stages of looking at the seat that Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is giving up.

But Camp’s interest also raised questions about whether he could bring a tax reform bill home while running statewide in Michigan, which last elected a Republican senator almost 20 years ago.

For instance, Baucus’s announcement this year that he would not seek reelection in 2014 reassured some senators about the prospects for a tax reform bill. Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas), who formerly headed the GOP campaign committee, said Wednesday that he was “agnostic” about what a Camp run would mean for tax reform, even as he called the Ways and Means Committee chairman a strong potential candidate.

Camp laughed at the idea that a Senate bid would bring more challenges to his reform efforts. 

“Is that possible?” he joked.

— This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.

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