Levin outlines committee agenda

Ways and Means Chairman Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) on Tuesday offered a glimpse into what his committee will take up in the near future. 

On taxes, a small business tax bill will be marked up on Wednesday. The recently-passed Senate bill resuscitating several expired tax breaks will likely be the subject of a conference between the House and Senate.

"We're going to have to work on the payfors because of that famous black liquor provision," Levin said. "We need to find a replacement."

"Black liquor" refers to a tax break abused by companies that lawmakers seek to repeal in health reform legislation. Its inclusion in the health bill means it can't be used in the extender bill.

Health legislation under consideration contains a tax on high-end health insurance plans that takes effect in 2018. If the bill is enacted, Levin will seek to modify the tax.

"The advantage of 2018 is we'll be able to look at it - and we will," he said. 

The chairman also seeks to extend tax breaks for the middle class that were enacted in 2001 and 2003 and expire in December. He hopes to begin that process after Congress returns from Easter break. He does not plan to extend tax breaks for upper income taxpayers, which is politically risky for Democrats in vulnerable districts and up for re-election in November. 

On the bank tax, Levin hopes to begin discussions next week. He said nothing has really happened on this issue.

On the estate tax, the chairman supports extending 2009 law. He also backs giving taxpayers a choice in either complying with current estate tax rules or abiding by what Congress eventually passes. He hedged on whether he would support a lower estate tax, like the one being discussed in the Senate that offers a 35 percent tax rate and $5 million exemption.  

He hopes to address the estate tax soon, saying people need consistency in the law to plan effectively. 

On the alternative minimum tax, Levin hinted that Obama's budget proposal was out of reach, but a two-year fix could be possible if the stars align properly.

Levin did not offer a timeline on when his committee would take up comprehensive tax reform. 

He does plan to hold hearings on currency manipulation and stressed that addressing the China issue needs the support from all nations. 

"I think we need to internationalize the imbalance of currency," he said, hinting that action by the G20 could be quicker than working through the WTO to fix the problem.