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By Kaustuv Basu
Top House Ways and Means Committee members are jockeying for positions of influence as Congress eyes a tax overhaul in 2017.
The House GOP consumption tax-based blueprint is currently in the hands of committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and his staff as they work with fellow Republicans and the Trump team to shape a legislative proposal.
But there may be opportunities for House tax-writers to put their imprint on the bill, potentially even leading opposition to the plan’s border adjustability provision.
Here are five Ways and Means Committee members to watch this year, former congressional tax aides, lobbyists and others tell Bloomberg BNA.
Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-Ohio) challenged Brady for the Ways and Means chairmanship in late 2015.
He is expected to be the voice of opposition if some Republican members don’t like certain provisions in the blueprint, although he is also seen as a loyal party man.
Like some other Ways and Means members, Tiberi is under pressure from retailers in his district who don’t like a key element of the blueprint that taxes imports while providing rebates for exports.
Companies with headquarters in central Ohio include L Brands Inc., Abercrombie and Fitch, Express, DSW Inc. and Big Lots Inc.
Tiberi, who is weighing a Senate run in 2018, will want to leave a big impression on a tax code rewrite. “On any issue, he is a good guy to lead the opposition,” the former tax aide said. “He matters in the ‘let’s change this a little’ vein.”
With Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), the former chairman of the Tax Policy Subcommittee, having left the House, Tiberi is also expected to assume a more prominent role on Ways and Means.
Industries important to Tiberi’s district include retail, financial services, manufacturing, agriculture and autos. “He will advocate for tax reform that will increase investment in Ohio and help those industries compete, grow and hire more Ohioans,” a Tiberi spokesperson said in an e-mail. The low income housing tax credit is another Tiberi priority.
Elements of the House GOP tax blueprint are similar to a bill introduced previously by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) called the American Business Competitiveness Act (H.R. 4377).
His bill, like the blueprint, allows for 100 percent expensing of business investments. Nunes has been a longtime champion of a consumption tax model, and for years he and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) have been looking at fair and flat tax models.
When Koch Industries criticized the border adjustability provision in the GOP tax plan, Nunes was quick to defend the proposal, saying that it was a clean and fair idea. “If you want to defend sweat shops in Vietnam, it’s up to you,” Nunes told Bloomberg BNA at the time. “That’s not something I’m going to do. We want to have things made in the United States.”
Nunes can readily assume the position of attack dog if needed. Talking on CNBC’s Power Lunch on Jan. 12, he said “it’s a little offensive some major American companies that are importers who do business worldwide, are even raising concerns of this plan, because I don’t see them going to Germany or Mexico or China to raise these concerns. And Donald Trump has been exactly right to call people out on this.”
There’s another reason why his name is increasingly in the mix when it comes to overhauling the tax code. Nunes was named to the Trump transition team, and some suspect that he and Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), another transition team member, could become the conduits for some Trump tax ideas.
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), new chairman of the Tax Policy Subcommittee, is seen as someone who is readying the Republican party for the future.
He will bring his considerable political skills to bear when it comes to a tax overhaul, a former congressional aide said. One tax lobbyist described him as a thoughtful lawmaker who is not necessarily a big “tax thinker” but is a big “political thinker.”
Like Tiberi, Roskam has big political ambitions and is well-liked by the business community.
As a former chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee, Roskam kept his eyes trained on the IRS. A Roskam bill passed by the House in 2016 would get rid of a requirement for charities and churches to disclose donor information to the Internal Revenue Service. Another Roskam bill that the House passed would make it harder for the IRS to wrongfully seize money from bank accounts.
In 2016, Roskam also introduced the No Dollars for Ayatollahs Act, which would impose an excise tax on anyone in the U.S. who cleared or transferred more than $1 million for the benefit of the Iranian government or an Iranian person.
Rep. James B. Renacci (R-Ohio) wants to be a player when it come to a tax overhaul, and he might just get a chance in 2017.
The congressman released his own tax overhaul plan last year, which had a value-added tax of 7 percent and eliminated the alternative minimum tax. His plan proposed three income tax brackets of 10 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. Renacci’s draft legislation also didn’t eliminate the estate tax, unlike the GOP blueprint and Trump’s tax plan.
Renacci is known to speak up in meetings. That means he could potentially become a go-to guy for those who want changes in the tax plan.
He is another member who is looking beyond the House as he charts his political future, some say, and that means he will want to be very visible this year.
Renacci is weighing a run for Ohio governor. “There’s a lot of people back in Ohio that have asked me to consider that. I’m looking into all of that,” Renacci told Bloomberg BNA. “But right now, I’m happy while I’m here to try and mold the tax bill.”
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the newly minted Ways and Means ranking member, is well-liked and knowledgeable about tax ideas. He is also seen as someone who can be bipartisan.
“He will keep Democrats in the room at least. With Levin, the Democrats did not have a chance,” the former aide said, referring to former Ways and Means ranking member Sander Levin (D-Mich.), who is seen as a polarizing Democrat. “He will give it a good college try and generally he is pretty pro-business for a Democrat.”
Neal will speak up for core Democratic ideas such as a middle-class tax cut and a boost in infrastructure spending, according to his office.
But the bottom line is that House Democrats won’t matter as much as those in the Senate, which is expected to be critical to a final tax package. Neal will also have to tread carefully with progressives, given his reputation for working with Republicans, the former aide said.
Neal has made some conciliatory noises. At a Ways and Means organizational meeting Jan. 12, he said that the Democrats on the committee were “pretty much mainstream,” a possible hint to his Republican colleagues that the minority contingent will approach tax overhaul with an open mind.
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