SHAKING UP THE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE. When Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) was named Speaker of the House last month his rapid rise to the top of House Republican leadership set off a domino effect of promotions in the House Ways and Means Committee. Chairman Kevin Brady announced on Wednesday a complete overhaul of the subcommittee assignments for committee Republicans. The Hill has the details:

New Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced the changes that includes adding Rep. Tom Rice (R-S.C.) and adjusts the names and sizes of several subcommittees.
“These Republican subcommittee chairs and members will play a crucial role in taking real steps toward fixing our country’s broken tax code, reining in the IRS, reforming the nation’s welfare programs, expanding trade, replacing the Affordable Care Act and saving Social Security and Medicare for the long term,” Brady said in a statement.
Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) will lead the tax policy subcommittee moving from the human resources panel with tax reform topping the agenda of Ryan and Brady.

AN EITC MOMENT FOR OBAMA AND RYAN. President Obama and Ryan don’t agree on much when it comes to reforming the individual side of the tax code but one potential area of agreement is an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Both men would like to include more single individuals in the program which acts as a financial incentive for low-income workers. Chuck Marr at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a new analysis of how the two could come together on some policy changes.

The EITC, however, largely excludes workers who aren’t raising children and completely excludes them if they’re under age 25.  A young man just out of school who’s in an entry-level job gets nothing, and a middle-aged woman with grown kids who works for the minimum wage at the local nursing home gets close to nothing.
Speaker Ryan and President Obama propose to change that — in almost exactly the same way.  They would phase in the credit more quickly as a worker’s earnings rise, raise the maximum credit to about $1,000, and lower the eligibility age from 25 to 21. 
These changes would make a big difference.  Currently, as the chart shows, a childless worker with poverty-level wages receives an EITC of $172, not nearly enough to offset the $1,188 he or she owes in income tax and the employee share of payroll taxes (to say nothing of the employer share, which economists generally agree ultimately falls on workers in the form of lower wages).  The Ryan/Obama proposals would give that worker an $841 EITC, a major step towards lifting the worker back to the poverty line.

FINDING A LONG-TERM SOLUTION TO THE BUDGET CRISIS CYCLE. Economists and budget watchers often debate the idea of shifting to a tw0-year budget cycle in hopes of creating more certainty in the system, but Rudy Penner at the Tax Policy Center says that shift wouldn’t be a great idea, according to TPC’s Howard Gleckman.

The government is big and complicated and accurately estimating how much it will spend and collect is beyond anyone’s ability. Doing it over one year is impossible. Doing it over two is, what, impossible squared?
If it is hard to forecast finances for the whole government, it is not much easier to project spending for individual programs. As Rudy noted, the need for a program can change and costs are almost impossible to predict. Take one dramatic example: Health care. Try getting a handle on, say, what the Pentagon or the VA will spend on medical care over two years. As Rudy noted, “If appropriations were done only every two years, it is likely that there would be a demand for numerous supplementals during the off year and supplementals are more difficult to discipline than regular appropriations.”
That brings up his third objection—oversight. Supporters believe biennial budgeting would give Congress more time to do oversight. Rudy’s view: “I fear that if we went to biennial budgeting, the appropriations process could take two years to complete two-year appropriations.” Worse, Rudy said, the best oversight usually happens during appropriations, a process that would happen only every other year in the new model.