House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Dave Camp on Capitol Hill, Oct. 29, 2013.
Evan Vucci/AP

Dave Camp’s short memory

Updated
House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) thinks he knows why tax reform hasn’t worked out: this, like everything else, is all President Obama’s fault.
The House’s top tax writer on Wednesday rebuked President Obama for not releasing a detailed plan to overhaul the tax code.
 
“I think we all get elected to lead,” Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said. “We need some leadership.” […]
 
Camp, appearing at an event with Jason Furman, one of Obama’s top economic advisers, noted that the White House had only rolled out a general draft on business taxes well over two years ago. A more detailed proposal from Obama, Camp said, could give new life to the stalled tax reform effort.
According to the report in The Hill, Camp made the remarks at an event sponsored by the Business Roundtable, a group of top corporate chief executives. The Michigan Republican, who’s stepping down this year after 12 terms in Congress, added on tax reform, “I could negotiate with myself. I don’t think it would get anywhere…. But I can’t really counter what I’ve done with nothing.”
 
I have a strong suspicion that I’m one of only about seven people nationwide who find this interesting, and the reflexive “blame Obama” line grew tiresome quite a while ago.
 
But in this case, Camp’s defense – tax reform failed because the White House didn’t follow through – is so absurd, it requires some fact-checking.
 
With the knowledge that most of you probably stopped reading a few paragraphs ago, let’s review reality for a minute.
 
As we last discussed in February, Camp, to his credit, invested three years of his life on a plan to overhaul the nation’s federal tax code. It was an ambitious, thankless task, and though I wasn’t altogether impressed with the proposal Camp put together, I gave (and still give) him credit for putting pen to paper and presenting a real plan, subject to public scrutiny.
 
And for a short while, it looked like House Republicans might at least consider the possibility of working on the issue – they gave tax reform the special H.R. 1 designation, a symbolic bill number intended to convey its significance.
 
And then the House GOP leadership changed its mind. Republicans made a conscious, deliberate decision: working on tax reform would mean less time to complain about “Obamacare,” Benghazi, and anything else that fell into the far-right fever swamp. Working on public policy, GOP leaders concluded, would have been an unwelcome distraction from their more partisan priorities.
 
By March 2014, Republican officials thanked Camp for working so diligently on tax reform, then declared his plan dead. According to Camp’s own GOP allies, his plan would receive no debate, no hearing, and no vote.
 
Asked in the spring about the substance of Camp’s tax-reform bill, Boehner said, quite literally, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”
 
And now Camp would have Americans believe that tax reform is dead because of Obama? For goodness’ sake, the president presented Congress with a credible framework for tax reform, then waited for House Republicans to get their act together. GOP leaders decided not to bother – there were several dozen ACA-repeal votes to schedule instead.
 
Camp is somehow under the impression that a more detailed plan from the White House would have salvaged the broader initiative. Really? Here’s the follow-up question for the Ways and Means Committee chairman: if House Republicans weren’t willing to support the tax-reform plan written by a House Republican, in what universe were they willing to instead support the plan from the Democratic president that disgusts them?
 
Camp is correct that he can’t negotiate with himself. But he could negotiate with his own GOP allies – his colleagues who told him to work on this bill – who instead told him they weren’t interested. For the Michigan Republican to somehow want to pass the buck to the White House is ridiculous.
 
Republicans killed tax reform; they own this fiasco, whether Camp likes it or not.
 

Dave Camp, House Republicans, Tax Policy and Tax Reform

Dave Camp's short memory

Updated