One week after a congressional “supercommittee” announced that it failed to reach agreement on a far-reaching debt-reduction plan, a member of the bipartisan panel said that he is moving forward on corporate tax reform.
In an address at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said that he plans to introduce a measure aimed at “pro-growth, corporate tax reform that’s deficit-neutral, that lowers rates to 25 percent and moves to a territorial system.”
“Our proposal brings the top rate down from 35 percent to 25 percent, primarily by reducing inefficiencies, preferences and exemptions,” Portman said. “And to those who say it can’t be done, again, we have an estimate from the Joint Tax Committee showing you can do it on a deficit-neutral basis.”
Tax reform was among the measures that the 12-member supercommittee wanted to include in a plan to cut at least $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next decade. Members on both sides of the aisle had been working toward a deal that would simplify the country’s convoluted tax code and do away with loopholes benefiting corporations and wealthy individuals.
But as the panel’s chances of success waned, so too did the chance to fast-track comprehensive tax reform through a supercommittee deal.
Portman on Monday acknowledged that the supercommittee was a missed opportunity for tax reform, but he said that he believes there’s a chance for “significant progress” in Congress on some elements of the panel’s work.
“We can’t wait for the next president,” he said. “We can’t wait for the next Congress. We need to act and act now.”
He said that corporate tax reform is “a classic example of what we can do across party lines” and that he expects members from both parties will support his legislation, although he does not have any specific Democratic co-sponsors in the works.
“We did achieve some results ... putting together at least a framework for dealing with this issue of corporate taxes,” he said of the supercommittee. “I’m hopeful that one of the products of this committee is that Congress will be able to come together and move forward on this.”
It’s unclear how or whether Congress will make another attempt to achieve a broad-reaching debt-reduction plan. Some, such as Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), have suggested that lawmakers should vote on a bipartisan plan such as the $4 trillion proposal put forward last year by the Simpson-Bowles commission.
Portman said Monday that he’d “be supportive of any proposal like that coming to the floor.” But he noted that such an effort would be complicated because lawmakers face the challenge of distilling a sweeping debt-reduction plan into actual legislative language.
“Frankly, it’s easier said than done,” he said. “Part of the challenge is going to be coming up with legislative language and scoring it.”
While Portman struck a bipartisan tone on corporate tax reform, he did take a few swings at Democrats and President Obama on the issues of spending and tax increases.
He argued that the “absence of presidential leadership” made the supercommittee’s work more difficult, and he took aim at Obama’s $447 billion “so-called ‘jobs’ plan” as “another round of stimulus spending.”
The White House did submit its own suggestions to the supercommittee, and Obama has maintained that it was up to the panel to come to an agreement on their own.
Portman also contended that Democratic calls for a “balanced” plan that includes both spending cuts and tax increases “misses the big picture” of the country’s fiscal challenges.
“We have primarily a long-term spending problem,” he said.