McCarthy Pushes for Tax Reform, Urges Obama to Not ‘Mess It Up’

by Robert Costa

Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority whip, tells National Review Online that House Republicans will soon pursue comprehensive tax reform — and he’d like President Obama to stay out of the congressional talks.

“Every time the president gets into the mix, he messes it up,” McCarthy says, in an interview at the Capitol. “He has never come to an agreement, so I don’t know why he’d ever come to an agreement now. The vice president did more in eight hours on the fiscal cliff than [Obama] did in eight months.”

After months of planning, McCarthy says Republicans are ready to legislate, and they will eventually bring a tax-reform package to the floor. “We’re serious about passing it and our conference will drive it,” he says.

Representative Dave Camp (R., Mich.), the chairman of the Ways and Means committee, will author the legislation along with members of his committee, but McCarthy says the Republican leadership wants the entire conference to be involved in the process. “Listening sessions” on tax reform are already scheduled.

For the moment, details of the House GOP’s proposal are vague, but McCarthy hinted at its composition. On corporate-tax reform, for example, McCarthy says Republicans are pursuing an “overall” solution, instead of a stand-alone bill, even though the president has signaled his interest in that issue. “You can’t just only do corporate,” he says. “The way Dave Camp and members of his committee are approaching it is the proper way.”

Representative Peter Roskam (R., Ill.), the chief deputy whip, and Representative Lynn Jenkins (R., Kan.), a certified public accountant, joined McCarthy for the interview and said House Republicans are also open to eliminating most deductions. “There will be a premium here on simplicity,” Roskam says. “If we can craft a code that’s simpler and the rates are lower, it’s the kind of thing that can carry us a long way.”

“The sense is, they all go,” Jenkins says, when asked about which deductions Republicans are willing to consider for the chopping block. “Somebody is going to have to make the economic case for why a tax provision should remain in the code.” The listening sessions, she adds, will be an opportunity for House Republicans to find some consensus.

Roskam, however, emphasizes that Republicans won’t lead their case with a push to close specific loopholes. Instead, the party will focus on the theme of “competitiveness,” talking about the necessity of growth and the urgency to simplify the code. “We’re resisting the president’s redefinition of terms,” he says. “The president wants to define tax reform as closing loopholes to pay for more spending. We’re saying ‘No, we reject that.’”

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