Extenders Likely Priority for Next Ways and Means Chairman

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Oct. 23 — Tax policy priorities won't change regardless of who next runs the House Ways and Means Committee, according to Republicans on the panel.

Broadly speaking, their goals remain the same, a number of them said in recent days.

Those seen as most likely to take the gavel—Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) or Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)—will push their preferences as much as outside influences allow. In the short term, that means dealing with the dozens of expired tax provisions known as extenders and not much more.

“That's the first thing that's really, really important,” Tiberi told Bloomberg BNA Oct. 23.

Changes to U.S. taxes on foreign-derived income, a heavily discussed topic in the past couple of months connected to finding revenue for highway and infrastructure needs, appear much less likely now, more than one tax lobbyist said. Chances of that happening were already diminishing before the Ways and Means shake-up, they said.

No Hints

Tiberi declined to say whether as chairman he would push permanent extensions for some of the temporary extenders or renew them again on a short-term basis.

Tiberi has sponsored House-passed legislation to permanently extend expensing under tax code Section 179 and bonus depreciation; Brady has sponsored the House-passed bill to make permanent the tax credit for research and development.

“I'm not negotiating through the press,” Tiberi said.

Brady told reporters he would have more to say on Oct. 26.

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), another Ways and Means member thought to have interest in running the panel, told Bloomberg BNA that Senate deliberations would dictate possibilities for the committee's next chairman.

Following Blueprint

Big picture tax goals for the committee remain unchanged, with Tiberi, Brady and others insisting that they would continue down the path they agreed to with the outgoing chairman, Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), who has decided to run for House speaker.

Having Ryan in the top spot would create new opportunities to advance tax legislation, because he has been so wedded to ideas to revise the tax code himself, they said, suggesting Ryan would be a good partner as speaker.

House members are scheduled to vote for a new speaker on Oct. 29, and the House Republican Steering Committee could make Ways and Means changes just days later. Elevating Brady or Tiberi to the chairmanship would lead to subcommittee changes further down the road.

“The two people that have been mentioned are good people who are all very close to Paul Ryan,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) told Bloomberg BNA. “Plus I've got an assurance from Paul that they'll work with us and make sure things work out.”

Hatch has said he wants permanency for select extenders, although he hasn't been specific. Nearly a year ago, a deal nearly came together to make permanent several of them, including the R&D credit and the expensing provisions.

Tiberi said he would follow the blueprint laid out under Ryan on more comprehensive efforts to revise the tax code.

But that remains a longer-term goal not likely to come together this year or next, a presidential election year.

International Changes Unlikely

Even the less-thorny effort to reshape taxes on foreign income is stymied for now, said one of its top Ways and Means advocates, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.).

He pushed a plan to lower rates on intellectual property earnings as part of a bigger international tax plan Ryan was developing. But opposition to tying international taxes to highways from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) stalled those plans, Boustany told Bloomberg BNA.

Ryan's pending exit as chairman will open a Republican seat on the committee; Boustany also would be on his way out if he gets picked for a Senate seat in Louisiana, where Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) is running for governor.

So far, at least one lawmaker has openly campaigned for a spot on the panel: Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.), a second-term congressman who tried to join Ways and Means when a roster spot last opened a few months ago. Rice, an accountant and tax attorney who wants to work on overhauling the tax code, missed out when the spot went to Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill).

“You've got to have the resolve to carry out what you speak about and worry less about the next election,” Rice told Bloomberg BNA.

Levin Remains Skeptical

Such lofty goals aside, skepticism remains on the part of the top Ways and Means Democrat, ranking member Sander M. Levin (Mich.), who told reporters the committee has fallen short on major issues under its jurisdiction. He wants a bipartisan discussion on extenders, no matter who runs the panel next.

“We haven't had it and we need to do that, because, for example the bonus depreciation, we think it was supposed to be a temporary program to be effective and it should stay that way,” Levin said.

With assistance from Casey Wooten and Marc Heller in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Aaron E. Lorenzo in Washington at aaron@bna.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Brett Ferguson at bferguson@bna.com