Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, talks with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 24, 2014.
AP Photo

The Speaker in Wonderland

The headline, at first blush, doesn’t seem amusing. House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) latest op-ed – a 700-word piece for Politico – begins, “Do Your Job, Mr. President.”
 
It gets funnier, though, once the piece gets going. Boehner (or whoever writes these pieces for him) falsely claims, for example, to have “sent more than 40 jobs bills to the U.S. Senate.” He also claims the president “rewrote the law” by helping Dream Act kids, which isn’t at all what happened.
 
But the crux of the piece is about tax policy. “Our tax code, like our immigration system, is badly broken,” Boehner argues. “Because we have the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world, American companies have an incentive to relocate their headquarters overseas to lower their tax bill.”
 
That’s not quite right. We have a relatively high corporate tax rate, which corporations don’t actually pay thanks to holes in the tax code. President Obama has proposed cutting the rate while closing existing loopholes as part of a broader tax-reform package.
 
Republicans have refused, which made this part of Boehner’s op-ed plainly ridiculous, even for him.
…President Obama is hinting that he may act unilaterally in an attempt to supposedly reduce or prevent these so-called “tax inversions.” Such a move sounds politically appealing, but anything truly effective would exceed his executive authority. The president cannot simply re-write the tax code himself.
 
The right choice is harder. President Obama must get his allies on Capitol Hill to do their job. Senate Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden, pay lip service to tax reform, but they have utterly failed to act.
It sometimes seems as if Boehner lives in an entirely different reality – one in which the Speaker sees basic current events in the reflection of a fun-house mirror.
 
Let’s briefly review reality in the hopes of refreshing Boehner’s memory.
 
As we last discussed in February, House Republicans originally gave tax reform the special H.R. 1 designation – a symbolic bill number intended to convey its significance – with the intention of unveiling House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp’s (R-Mich.) plan in the fall of 2013. Camp had spent three years of his life on a tax-reform overhaul, and House GOP leaders saw it as an important priority.
 
And then they changed their minds. In November 2013, Republicans no longer wanted to tackle the difficult task of overhauling the tax code, choosing instead to complain about “Obamacare” full-time. Shifting their attention to policy work, the party decided, would have been an unwelcome distraction.
 
By March 2014, House GOP leaders decided to give up on the idea altogether. Sure, GOP lawmakers could try to accomplish something on the issue, but the effort would almost certainly divide Republicans, and there was no guarantee they’d get a bill done, anyway. Worse, if they succeeded, it might offer an election-year win for President Obama, the very idea of which was a non-starter.
 
Asked in the spring about the substance of a tax-reform bill, Boehner said, quite literally, “Blah, blah, blah, blah.”
 
And now the House Speaker, who hasn’t even considered bringing the issue to the House floor, is whining in an op-ed that Democrats “pay lip service to tax reform, but they have utterly failed to act.”
 
This kind of chutzpah is kind of scary. Boehner seems to think we’re fools, unable to remember what he said and did just a few months ago, and unable to access Google long enough to check.
 
I can appreciate the Speaker’s frustration – he’s proven himself incapable of governing, and when he tries, his own members betray him – but that’s no excuse for shameless dishonesty.
 
“Do Your Job, Mr. President”? This from the Speaker who wants tax reform but won’t even try to pass it through his own Republican-led chamber? Which of these two leaders is failing to do his “job”?
 

John Boehner, Tax Policy and Tax Reform

The Speaker in Wonderland