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February 26, 2014 9:52 AM Know When To Hold ‘Em & Hold ‘Em & Hold ‘Em

By Ed Kilgore

Man, does Mitch McConnell ever know how to rain on a parade!

Yesterday House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, put out the word that he’d finally be putting out a tax reform bill that had supposedly been a top priority for the GOP for years. For Camp, this probably represented the very apex of his career. All around Washington, and particularly on K Street, everybody got ready to issue some sort of reaction to Camp’s proposal. It was the only show in town.

Then McConnell briefly put out the word that Camp was wasting his time, because the Senate would not have time to deal with the subject in this Congress.

So today the big buzz is over the death of tax reform instead of tax reform. Politico’s Jake Sherman and Laurie French report McConnell’s line is being echoed wherever GOPers meet:

From moderates to conservatives, senior Republican aides to rank-and-file legislative hands, there are serious concerns about Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s plans to unveil politically sensitive plans to restructure the Tax Code just a touch more than eight months before Election Day.
It’s not that Republicans have soured on tax reform — in fact, it was one of the only areas of agreement at the party’s retreat last month.
But, put bluntly, Republicans think they will expand their majority in the House — and perhaps take the Senate — by spending the remainder of 2014 concentrating on a still struggling-economy, cutting a raft of regulations and Obamacare’s woes. Many senior figures see no need to open up a new policy discussion in February of an election year without a partner in the Senate and White House. And after specific details were revealed, it seems like they may rankle Republicans even more.
More than a dozen skeptical lawmakers and senior aides told POLITICO they thought it was a strategic blunder to unveil a plan outlining which loopholes to cut, whose rates will be slashed and which sector of the economy will see higher taxes when there’s little expectation the code will be reformed in 2014.

Now when it comes to taxes, what Republicans do seem interested in pursuing this year is legislation (also sponsored by Dave Camp, who may get a consolation prize) keeping the IRS from clarifying its rules on tax-exempt non-profit organizations in a way that might discomfit conservatives from the small-fry Tea Party groups claiming they were discriminated against to the big fish like Karl Rove and the Kochs whose groups use tax-exempt status to shield the identities of donors. The seriousness of this legislation is conveyed by its actual name: “STOP Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act of 2014.”

So it’s thumbs up for pandering to Tea groups and GOP donors this year, but thumbs down on actual tax legislation. As the number of issues postponed until after November adds up, it’s sure looking like next January is going to be a wild ride—unless we then hear that Republicans want to wait until they control the White House to advance a clear agenda.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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