The well-publicized tax reform plan proposed by Chairman Dave Camp last Wednesday represents some challenging politics for the GOP leadership.
On the one hand, many Members are more than happy to follow a "negative agenda" for the remainder of the year. This route would consist of simply riding the considerable public angst regarding Obamacare and the tepid economic recovery toward a (net) six seat pickup in the U.S. Senate. Such a result would dethrone Harry Reid and make Mitch McConnell Majority Leader. It would also guarantee a miserable final two years of the President's tenure.
Conversely, Camp adherents believe in a robust approach more likely to rekindle grassroots enthusiasm. This group wants a positive agenda to run on, and there is no more popular GOP agenda item than comprehensive reform of our antiquated tax code.
Indeed, the new proposal includes a variety of popular changes, including lowering the top marginal tax bracket, consolidating tax brackets, lowering the corporate income tax, and repatriation of foreign corporate profits.
One problem though: a 974 page reform plan that cuts taxes and maintains revenue neutrality must also shrink or eliminate numerous preferences, including popular tax incentives important to major corporate players.
In Washington, everyone is a fan of reform—right until details of how the ox is getting gored come to light. At such time, the targeted oxen tend to circle the wagons – an honored and successful tactic since the last major tax overhaul in 1986. As of last week, the circling has begun.