Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) put his committee's tax revision bill on a fast track yesterday, saying the sweeping legislation must be finished in the next few weeks or it will die.
Packwood said he wants to move a bill out of his committee by early May, when he plans to leave for Oregon to campaign for a primary election. It will take the committee staff at least two weeks to prepare the measure for floor consideration.
"If we slip past this deadline and . . . don't get this on the Senate floor until July, I would fear for the life of the bill," Packwood said. After that -- Congress has an extended recess in July and another in August -- budget legislation is likely to take center stage.
Packwood said the panel will begin holding afternoon sessions as well as morning meetings, and starting on Monday will work five days a week. He hopes to complete action this morning on sections of his plan that deal with investment write-offs and energy taxation, two complex and controversial areas.
Later in the week, Packwood said, he wants to have the committee finish consideration of sections dealing with accounting changes and pensions, two more big-ticket items.
Committee members showed little enthusiasm for speeding through the tax code, as Packwood wants.
"Nothing will get done" unless the committee limits its meeting to Tuesday through Thursday, said Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.). And Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), through repeated questioning, got Packwood to promise no votes will be taken on Monday mornings or Friday afternoons.
A compromise agreed to by Packwood, Sen. William V. Roth (R-Del.) and other Finance members last night is expected to speed consideration of the "depreciation" investment write-offs. It would treat cars and trucks more generously than Packwood's original plan, and would create a new write-off for certain kinds of equipment that would concentrate the tax deductions for the cost of those assets into the early years of the depreciation period.
Packwood rejected a proposal by Roth to fully link the depreciation deductions to inflation. Instead, the compromise would retain Packwood's plan to adjust for inflation to the extent it exceeds 2 percent, but not more than 8 percent.