Top House Republicans aren’t wasting time mapping out their ideal plan for comprehensive tax reform and have recently detailed how they would maneuver their legislation through Congress next year if they win the White House and control of both chambers.
The course they’ve charted is designed to make the right’s dream tax bill all but inevitable. It includes strict guidelines to keep tax revenues stay near historic lows and a combination of fast-tracking procedures and enforcement mechanisms to make sure the reforms become law, and quickly.
Here’s how the plan would work, according to a well-placed Republican aide.
The Bush-era tax rates will be fully extended through 2013. By the end of April, the House Ways & Means Committee would be required to introduce tax reform legislation in accordance with the budget the House GOP adopted in 2012. That includes collapsing individual tax rates in two brackets with a top rate of 25 percent or less, slashing the corporate rate to 25 percent, repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and expanding the taxpayer base to keep revenue at 18-19 percent of the economy.
The Ways & Means Committee, which has jurisdiction on taxes, would be required to approve that bill late in May. The following month, the Rules Committee would either send the bill to the floor or House GOP leadership would move to consider it directly. The debate would be four equally divided hours with amendments allowed.
Were it to pass the House, the Senate Finance Committee would be required to report it out within 15 days or it would be discharged automatically. The Republican majority leader would then advance the bill on the floor and allow for debate and amendments before final passage by the end of July.
The GOP’s new road map contemplates the possibility that the legislation would fall to a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, but contains no contingencies, suggesting Senate Republicans might have to fast track it through the budget process to avoid a super-majority requirement.
If the reforms passed both the House and Senate, a conference committee would convene to resolve any differences, and the legislation would soon be signed by President Mitt Romney in August, under the tentative plan. The new GOP law would replace the existing tax code in January 2014.
While this road map is contingent on a hoped-for GOP sweep in November, the House passed legislation on Thursday to create this process. And if Republicans take over the Senate and the White House in January, they would be strongly positioned to follow through with its requirements.
But even assuming a sweep, there are some harsh political realities that would confront a Republican colossus standing astride Washington. Is it truly viable politically to maintain revenues at existing levels? To do so — while cutting tax rates — inevitably requires ending popular deductions for the middle class, like the home mortgage deduction. In cloistered conservative economic circles, it’s considered a no brainer. Mitt Romney has embraced eliminating popular deductions in principle. But it’s just one sign of how politically explosive the issue is that Romney and his campaign have steadfastly refused to identify virtually any of the deductions he would eliminate from the tax code.
So while the Republican hope is to change the political dynamic by winning big in November, the reality of being solely in charge creates a whole new set of political dynamics that could make their dream scenario less dreamy.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.