Succession Complete: Wyden Officially Takes Senate Finance Committee Gavel

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By Aaron E. Lorenzo  

Feb. 13 --Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has officially become the Senate Finance Committee's new chairman.

Wyden formally took over the post late Feb. 12, following evening passage of a resolution on committee memberships (S. Res. 359). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called up the measure, and it passed the Senate by unanimous consent just before he adjourned the chamber for more than 10 days, save for some pro forma sessions.

The resolution confirmed expectations for Wyden, who succeeded former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China.

Wyden has said addressing the nearly 60 lapsed deductions, credits and other tax provisions that expired after Dec. 31, 2013, is of paramount concern. A proponent of remaking the U.S. tax code, Wyden has said that temporarily extending the expired provisions called tax extenders could serve as a bridge to a bigger set of changes.

"There's an opportunity for a bipartisan consensus on the extenders," Wyden told reporters Feb. 11 .

Though he has spoken in support of expired expenditures such as the research and development credit and others related to alternative energy--including the wind production tax credit--Wyden has not tipped his hand as to whether he wants to renew all extenders or allow some to permanently expire. Some of his colleagues across the aisle, including Finance Committee ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), have said they do not want to simply extend all the expired provisions.

"I want to talk to both sides on the committee and to my colleagues," Wyden said.

Tax Code Changes?

In terms of overhauling the tax code, Wyden recently reiterated his preference for tripling the standard deduction for individual taxpayers, simplifying the earned income tax credit and making the child tax credit both permanent and available to more taxpayers on the individual side, and reducing the top corporate income tax rate to 24 percent.

In his first interview since becoming chairman, Wyden said on Bloomberg Television's "Political Capital with Al Hunt" Feb. 13 that broader tax code changes won't happen soon.

"We've got a big challenge of bringing people together," Wyden said.

The reshuffling of Wyden to the top spot previously held by Baucus also created a vacancy on the committee, which Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has filled, according to the Senate-passed resolution.

Wyden also remains on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, but was replaced as chairman by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.).

By Aaron E. Lorenzo  

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To contact the editor responsible for this story: Cheryl Saenz at