One thing is becoming clear about legislation that a bipartisan group of more than 30 senators plan to introduce later this month to implement the recommendations of President Obama’s deficit commission: the bill’s debut will be just the beginning of a protracted fight over its final result.
Information has been scarce about where the bill – spearheaded by Democrat Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia and Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia – will come down on matters such as tax reform, Social Security, and spending cuts. The deficit commission did not deal in depth with Medicare or Medicaid.
But in an interview Wednesday, Chambliss told The Daily Caller he wanted the legislation to start out free of all tax deductions and loopholes, the most drastic tax reform option of several that the deficit commission included in its final report.
Any deductions – such as the deductions for mortgage interest or for charitable giving, to name just two of many – would have to be added back on through an amendment that would require a separate vote by the Senate, Chambliss said.
“It will have the recommendations of the commission that all the deductions be eliminated,” Chambliss said. “And then somebody’s going to come in and want to add back the mortgage interest deduction, somebody’s going to want to add charitable deductions. So we’ll have to pick and choose as to which ones are added back, if any.”
Asked in a follow up whether this meant that the legislation would start “at zero” and then add back on through the amendment process, Chambliss answered in the affirmative. But he said he was not sure if the deduction elimination applied to corporate taxes or only personal income taxes.
Senate aides cautioned that the bill is still being drafted and subject to change. And it is just as likely, sources said, that the legislation will not come down in favor of one approach to tax reform over another and will simply require further action by the Senate.
Nonetheless, Chambliss’s comments about the way the bill will be handled made clear that the first draft will be in many ways little more than an opening kickoff in a year long game of football.
“Mark [Warner] will be first to have an amendment. I’ll be right behind him, because I’d like to change part of it. You’ll see others do the same thing who are co-sponsors of the legislation,” Chambliss said, though he declined to specify his planned amendment. “So the initial legislation will be the debt commission report but we know that at the end of the day it’s going to change.”
He also predicted this type of process for any changes to Social Security.
“Instead of waiting until 2050 I would prefer speeding up that process of raising age limits,” Chambliss said, referring to the commission’s recommendation that the retirement age be moved up to 68 in 2050. “But the commission has a time table and that’s where we’ll start.”