Since it was launched two weeks ago, Ways & Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp's (R-Mich.) tax reform plan has been hammered and praised across the political spectrum. I gave it a knock at Hot Air, and here at TheBlaze, for increasing a tax on Wall Street that would be used for a bailout and for simply being too centrist, respectively.
However, Camp does deserve credit for launching the first comprehensive tax reform effort in 27 years, and for doing so in an election year. Nobody else in leadership in either party has done the heavy lifting, so Camp has taken the burden upon himself after three years of hearings, testimony, research, and compromise.
Now, though, Politico is reporting the tax reform plan may have a side benefit: Putting pressure on Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to either include at least part of the Camp reforms in his upcoming budget proposal, or make it clear yet again that Ryan is no fiscal conservative.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., answers questions as he and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., announce a tentative agreement between Republican and Democratic negotiators on a government spending plan, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
For several years, it has been part of political wisdom that Ryan is a conservative's conservative. He created an alternative to TARP in 2008, was on the Deficit Commission in 2010, and has put forth budgets that reform Medicare. He was also the Vice Presidential candidate for the GOP in 2012, largely on the strength of his allegedly conservative record, and speaks articulately on the need for budget cuts and entitlement reform.
However, that record has taken a beating in the last 12 months. Between his support for amnesty and his leading role on the budget deal that neutered the sequester, Ryan's true colors are being shown. And all of that takes place after his vote in 2001 for No Child Left Behind, in 2003 for Medicare Part D, and TARP and the auto bailouts in 2008.
Additionally, many Republicans noticed the original Ryan Roadmap took over 50 years to balance the budget, and two years ago his budget proposal took 22 years to do the same. All of his three budget proposals so far have ignored Social Security reform, taken a decade to begin reforming Medicare, and merely outlined general principles on tax reform.
And now, Camp has put Ryan in the position of having to choose whether to be politically courageous and actually take a risk with inclusion of tax reform in his budget – or continue to show the lie to his reputation as a problem-solving conservative policymaker.
What is especially interesting about the dilemma facing Ryan is the likelihood that he will be Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee next year. Which means Ryan could choose to avoid tax reform – despite three years of GOP promises to put forth a proposal – and play things safe in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. However, that could hurt him with colleagues who have worked with Camp to get the tax reform draft out the door, and set him up as being seen as unwilling to do heavy lifting as the probable Chairman of the House's most powerful Committee.
Is Paul Ryan a fiscal conservative? His record says “no,” but his reputation says “yes.” The decision Ryan makes on tax reform could be a rebound in his reputation, or another nail in the coffin of his record.
Either way, the political navigations Ryan will make over the next several weeks will be entertaining. Time to bring out the popcorn.
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