The House Ways and Means Committee formally announced 11 separate working groups they hope will push the ball forward on tax reform.
The working groups will not be charged with crafting recommendations or proposals in their issue areas, but will instead be on more of a fact-finding mission.
Each working group has until April 15 to turn in their feedback, and will be reaching out to a wide range of sources – stakeholders, academics, fellow lawmakers, tax practitioners and the public at large. The groups will each have a GOP chair, with a Democrat holding the vice chair slot.
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement that he was glad to see the panel work across the aisle to try and “fix our broken tax code.”
“Regardless of party or politics, everyone can agree that comprehensive tax reform should result in a simpler, fairer tax code for families and more jobs for American workers,” Camp said in a statement.
Rep. Sandy Levin (Mich.), the top panel’s top Democrat, added that the “working groups provide a framework to undertake in-depth fact-finding on a variety of important issues related to tax reform.”
Ways and Means is announcing the working groups as their colleagues across the Rotunda, the Senate Finance panel, is trying to release a set of drafts from the entire committee in the spring.
Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), the chairman of the Ways and Means panel on taxes, said the working groups could allow the two parties to build the sort of trust that was he said was lacking during the debate over the Democratic healthcare overhaul.
But the Ohio Republican also appeared skeptical that the working groups would move the ball forward all that much.
“I think it’s a way to find common ground,” Tiberi told The Hill. “At least we’re talking with each other. I don’t think anything bad can come out of it. And maybe something good will.”
The working groups also come President Obama’s nod toward tax reform in his State of the Union underwhelmed some Republicans. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has also suggested in recent weeks that a tax reform push might not be worth the effort, given the partisan differences between the two parties.
One congressional aide said the working groups could also buy policymakers more time to see what’s politically possible on tax reform.
The leaders of the working groups are: Reps. Dave Reichert (R-Wash) and John Lewis (D-Ga.) at charitable and tax exempt organizations; Reps. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) at debt, equity and capital; Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Danny Davis (D-Ill.) at education and family benefits; and Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) at the energy working group.
Reps. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and John Larson (D-Conn.) will helm the financial services working group, and Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) will lead the income and tax distribution group.
Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) will be in the top spots at the international group, and Reps. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) will lead the international group.
Finally: Tiberi and Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) will head the pensions and retirement group; Reps. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), the real estate group; and Reps. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) and Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.), the small business and pass-throughs group.
Source: The Hill