Dave Camp, the top Republican on the House Ways & Means committee, announced Tuesday that he is retiring from Congress. When he leaves, he'll take his recently-released tax reform plan with him. Though the plan was never likely to become law, Budget committee chair Paul Ryan and Speaker John Boehner have spent the past month shutting it down — hard.
Camp released his plan at the end of February. It involves a dramatic simplification of the existing tax code, collapsing seven brackets into two. It also slashes the income tax rate to 25 percent for 99 percent of filers. The one-percenters would face an extra 10 percent surtax under Camp's plan (and tax experts say this will burden salaried professionals like lawyers, but not wealthy manufacturers who produce goods). Camp also managed to slash the corporate tax rate, which is important to the Republican business wing. But business lobbyists now want nothing to do with the plan, and Ryan and Boehner are happy to see it disappear.
What's playing out behind closed doors in the House right now is exactly what Boehner did not want — a war over tax reform. The House Republican leadership urged Camp not to release his plan so that they could avoid a fraught policy discussion before the midterms. But Camp did release it, and Republicans had to respond. Ryan did so by giving Camp's plan the short shrift in his budget, released this week.
As Politico's Brian Faler wrote Tuesday, "House Republicans are throwing Dave Camp under the proverbial bus." Ryan's budget mentions Camp's plan as merely one option for reforming the tax code. He points to two other Republican draft proposals, one of which would abolish the IRS. It's a slap in the face to Camp, who spent three years working on a realistic proposal that might even appeal to Democrats.
Meanwhile, Boehner and Camp had their most "poisonous interaction" yet this week, according to Politico's Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer. At a closed-door Ways & Means meeting about a fix for Medicare reimbursement rates, Camp "lit into" Boehner and accused his staff of being dishonest. The two lawmakers have long been considered friends — they came to Congress together in 1991. It seems Boehner's focus on the midterms finally pushed Camp over the edge.
But Ryan insists there's nothing to see here. When Faler asked if he was trying to distance himself from Camp's proposal, he responded,
It's not a final bill. We're not going to put a discussion draft of an issue that is not yet settled policy among the House Republican Conference in the House Republican budget. I think you guys are trying to make a story where none exists.
Democrats are happy to let whatever's not going on continue.