Cong. Peter Roskam on tax reform

Posted on February, 07 2017, 15:53

Peter Roskam on Tax Reform

Peter Roskam (R-IL) is Chairman of the influential Tax Policy Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee and he brings great knowledge, energy and ability to his job.  He will be a key player in crafting the major tax reform package expected to be passed by the House of Representatives this year.

Yesterday afternoon, he spoke to a group of policy wonks and lobbyists at the Heritage Foundation here in Washington.  My colleague, ABDC VP Howard Segermark, asked him an important question which went something like, "Mr. Roskam, you spoke of the many second and third generation small businesses in your district.  You know, of course, the devastating effects that the Death Tax has on these businesses including the destruction of jobs and economic opportunity.  Will repeal of the Death Tax be part of a tax reform bill?"

Roskam's response was anything but politically correct:  "Death Tax repeal is foundational to any tax reform bill." (Emphasis added.)  A more obfuscatory Congressman would have said, "Death Tax repeal is very high on our priority list." Or, perhaps he'd have said, "Repeal of the Death Tax is supported by President Trump and I support repeal."  Roskam was far stronger.

Now we can point to the fact that it was a friendly crowd and that Howard identified himself as a representing the American Business Defense Council.  Nevertheless, it was a reply that clearly reflected Roskam's position at this time. 

Roskam was also clear that there are dozens of other multi-billion dollar issues at stake in any tax reform bill.  He also said something that was a bit disappointing:  that it is unlikely that the House will consider tax reform until August at the earliest.  Most Washingtonians know that in August, Congress goes into recess and takes no action.  In 1981, President Reagan got the House and Senate to pass his tax reform bill so he could sign it on August 8.   Evidently that won't happen this year for President Trump.

Roskam also said that we have a great opportunity regarding tax reform.  No one supports the current code.  The IRS itself is at its lowest level of approval in memory.   Roskam noted that people used to think that the IRS was tough but fair, and that consensus is now gone.   

He also commented on the contentious political situation we face today.  There are very few Democrats that might be convinced to support a tax reform bill, he said.  Yet, it is very important that the GOP does not do for tax reform what the Democrats did on Obamacare.  It didn't get a single Republican vote.  The disaster that is Obamacare is clearly a Democratic party liability because they didn't even get try to get GOP support.

Roskam also had a more philosophical observation to impart.  We are, he said, at a "national inflexion point today."  Our choice is clear, between the status quo or serious reform and improvement.  His home state of Illinois has been "repeatedly doubling down on failed policies."  The federal Tax Code was last changed significantly in 1986, over a generation ago and change is needed now, he said.   President Reagan had bipartisan support for his '86 tax reform and he was almost unsuccessful in getting it passed. 

ln many ways we have a more divided polity and more acrimonious relations between the parties today.  But, he concluded, he didn't have a "cynical heart" and believed that real change in the Tax Code is possible and will happen with some Democratic support.  "Next year, we'll be celebrating passage of major tax reform." 

The markets seem to be signaling confidence that there will be solid achievement toward pro-growth tax and regulatory policy.  It is far from a done deal, but it is great to have an ally like Peter Roskam.