Tax Reform Proposal Divides Republicans
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The Fiscal Times
February 26, 2014

The pending release of Rep. Dave Camp’s tax code overhaul this afternoon has exposed a divide in the Republican Party between legislators worried about their reelection chances and outside groups who have long advocated for revisions to the tax system.

Camp’s plan, which among other things would simplify the current system by reducing the number of tax brackets and eliminating certain deductions, was welcomed by the conservative Heritage Foundation, whose chief economist Stephen Moore penned an article, “Tax Reform at Last?”

Related: Dave Camp, Tax Warrior, Makes Last Stand on Reform

Without delving into the details, Barney Keller, a spokesman for the virulently anti-tax Club for Growth, said the group welcomed Camp’s proposal.

“In general, we support broadening the base and lowering marginal tax rates, which we believe will lead to increased economic growth,” Keller said. “We look forward to reviewing Chairman Camp’s proposal and expect to comment on it in the future.”

Other Republicans complained about Camp’s decision to release a proposal sure to generate controversy in advance of a general election where numbers appear to favor Republicans.

“I’m for the concept of tax reform, but many of us have concerns about releasing a plan, considering the likelihood of enacting it this year,” North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry told Politico. Other Republicans, left unidentified, were even more critical.

Related: GOP Plan Cuts Top Rate, Adds Surcharge to Top Earners

On Capitol Hill Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that in his view, the bill would be dead on arrival. “I think we will not be able to finish the job, regretfully,” he told reporters. “I don't see how we can."

For groups like Heritage, though, the very fact that the proposal is being released is being treated as a victory. Moore conceded that he likely will not agree with all of Camp’s ideas, but called it “a gutsy and courageous first attempt to take on the beehive of special interests in Washington and grow the economy while making the tax system fairer and more comprehensible.”

Noting that the last major reform to the tax code was nearly 30 years ago, in 1986, Moore wrote, “The tax system we have is absurd in the 21st century. It’s as if we were trying to operate our businesses and compete in global markets with clunky computers and an operating system built in 1985. If Republicans want to be the party of solutions, the party of growth, and the party of reform, they ought to rally behind the spirit of Mr. Camp’s initiative—and even make it bolder.”

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A longtime reporter on the intersection of the federal government and the private sector, Rob Garver is National Correspondent, based in Washington, D.C. He has written for ProPublica, The New York Times and other publications.