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Paul Ryan: Obama already hurting chances for 2015 cooperation

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November 19, 2014 | comments

By Lori Montgomery

Rep. Paul Ryan, the incoming chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, laid out an expansive agenda Wednesday for 2015, including a GOP alternative to the Affordable Care Act and a fix for the looming shortfall in the federal disability insurance program.

An overhaul of the nation’s tax laws will also rank high on the agenda when Ryan (R-Wis.) takes the helm of the tax-writing panel in January.

However, Ryan acknowledged significant hurdles to passing tax reform during President Obama’s final years in office, and said far-reaching legislation may have to wait until a new president is seated in 2017.

“We’d like to do it sooner rather than later, but we don’t control everything,” Ryan said in an interview. He cited Obama’s longstanding refusal to roll out his own tax plan as well as the president’s recent decision to forge ahead with a unilateral ban on the deportation of some undocumented immigrants — a move that has inflamed Republicans.

“How the president starts his relationship with the new Congress will do a lot to set the tone, and so far, it doesn’t look good,” Ryan said.

Ryan declined to say whether he would try to advance tax legislation without White House cooperation. But he left the door open when asked whether he would follow the lead of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky), who has expressed a new willingness to set aside efforts to overhaul the individual tax code and focus on reforming tax laws for businesses, where there is more hope of bipartisan agreement. McConnell invited Obama to negotiate on business tax reform after Republicans consolidated their hold on Congress earlier this month

“I don’t want to foreclose any option,” Ryan said. “There is a sense of urgency around this issue regarding competitiveness and corporate inversions. The question is whether the president will nurture a working relationship with Congress that’s conducive to finding common ground.”

Ryan, who was the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2012, is one of the GOP’s most important thinkers on fiscal and economic policy. He has chaired the House Budget Committee since 2011, producing a series of austere spending plans that proposed to wipe out deficits over the next 10 years, lower the top tax rate from 39.6 percent to 25 percent and replace the open-ended Medicare guarantee with a government voucher.

As chairman of Ways and Means, Ryan will have the authority to produce legislation to implement those ideas. He replaces retiring Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), who declined to pursue Ryan’s Medicare plan when it became a political hot potato in 2011. Earlier this year, Camp released a tax reform draft that showed the enormous difficulty of achieving Ryan’s goal of getting tax rates down to 25 percent.

Ryan has said it would be easier to hit that target if the Congressional Budget Office used a process called “dynamic scoring” to measure broad effects on the economy when judging tax legislation. While CBO already uses dynamic scoring on a limited basis, Ryan said Wednesday he will have additional recommendations in the new Congress “for making sure we take these things into consideration.”


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