GOP drops retirement cuts, switches to tax code reform
WASHINGTON — With another fight over the national debt brewing this summer, congressional Republicans are de-emphasizing their demand for politically painful cuts to retirement programs and focusing on a more popular prize: a thorough rewrite of the tax code.
Reining in spending on Social Security and Medicare remains an important policy goal for the GOP. But House leaders last week began a series of meetings aimed at convincing rank-and-file lawmakers that tax reform is wise policy and good politics and should be their top priority heading into talks with Democrats over the need to raise the federal debt limit.
The move occurs weeks after President Obama responded to Republican demands to slash expensive federal retirement benefits by offering to shrink Social Security cost-of-living adjustments and raise Medicare premiums. The proposals, included in the president's budget request, outraged seniors, and some Republicans fear embracing them would be political suicide.
There is no such ambivalence, however, about simplifying the tax code and lowering the top rate, which jumped from 35 percent to 39.6 percent as part of a year-end budget deal that still rankles Republicans.
“The conference will unite around tax reform,” said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who hosted the first “listening session” on the issue on Thursday in his first-floor Capitol office. “The window is now.”
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., led the session, offering polling and focus group data showing that voters are hungry for simpler, fairer tax laws. Camp has started drafting legislation that would wipe out the welter of exemptions and deductions and replace them with sharply lower rates, an approach championed by Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, the co-chairmen of Obama's fiscal commission.
“We're not going to take the current code and see what comes out. We're going to take a blank piece of paper and see what goes back in,” said Camp, who advocates a streamlined code with just two brackets and a top rate of 25 percent.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.