“If tax reform wasn’t dead yesterday, it is definitely dead today.”
That was the reaction of Politico’s Lauren French after the news that Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) will be nominated to serve as US ambassador to China.
French covers tax policy on Capitol Hill. I spoke with her on Thursday’s Voices of Montana. Click here to listen to the show once it hits our podcast page.
Was tax reform really going anywhere, anyway?
French had this for Politico’s “Morning Tax” Thursday:
If he leaves before his term ends, Baucus would relinquish his gavel on the powerful Senate Finance Committee at a time when he is still aggressively pushing for a dramatic rewrite of the Tax Code, putting its chances in peril this Congress. http://politi.co/18zPWVU
HERE LIES TAX REFORM. WE HARDLY KNEW YE. Congress’ attempt to overhaul the nation’s tax code has been on its last leg for few weeks now, but the announcement that the White House plans to send Baucus to China has effectively killed it. There is just no time left in the schedule for Baucus to push through a comprehensive package while preparing for a Senate confirmation – and once he’s gone that’s it for the Baucus-Camp plan. But all hope is not totally lost for tax reform hopefuls. Ron Wyden – who is the likely choice to replace Baucus as chairman – has a keen interest in tax reform and it is possible he takes up the charge during the next Congress along with the next House Ways and Means Chairman. Brian Faler and Rachael Bade have more on that, for Pros: http://politico.pro/1dnRdNa
What about the ambitious revamp to the nations taxes on energy companies? Politico’s “Morning Energy” offers up this summary:
BAUCUS DOMINOES COULD TOPPLE WYDEN ENERGY AGENDA: The news that Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is about to be named ambassador to China means that Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) will take over the massive tax-writing committee several months earlier than expected, perhaps shortchanging the energy panel’s aggressive agenda. The domino effect could also mean huge electoral dividends for Sen. Mary Landrieu, one of the chamber’s most vulnerable Democrats in 2014. The Louisiana senator could be poised to take over the energy panel – which has a huge influence on her state’s oil- and gas-based economy – several months before voters decide whether to reelect her to a fourth term in November. Darren Goode and Andrew Restuccia have the smart take on the situation: http://politico.pro/JEi7aK
Could a nomination be smooth sailing for Baucus in the US Senate? (Senators typically support their own, regardless of party) Even the New York Times notes Baucus’s conflicted past when it comes to his role as the architect of Obamacare.
In a wide-ranging conversation on the health overhaul in his Capitol Hill office last week, before Wednesday’s news of his impending nomination, Mr. Baucus said he had a “flash of anger” over its bungled rollout. He also said that the law did not do enough to control costs and that Kathleen Sebelius, Mr. Obama’s health secretary, and her top aides delivered only “platitudes” when he asked them for specifics on how they would carry out the health overhaul.
“The more I asked,” he said, “the more concerned I became.”
But today the law is as much Mr. Baucus’s legacy as Mr. Obama’s. In 2009, it fell to Mr. Baucus to shepherd the health measure through the Senate by dint of his committee chairmanship and the death of the chamber’s leading voice on health care, Edward M. Kennedy. Although he remains a champion, and says Americans will ultimately embrace it, he expects it might take a decade.
Questions over his handling of the health care law could also raise questions about his ability to take over such an important post as ambassador to China.
From the AP:
Obama is in search of a new top diplomat in Beijing as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in U.S. foreign policy to more directly counter China after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The relationship between the two nations has grown more troubled in recent weeks, with Chinese authorities unilaterally declaring an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The United States subsequently flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the space last month without incident, and Vice President Joe Biden sought to calm matters on his recent trip through Asia.
WSJ: Nomination Comes at a Time of Growing Tension in U.S.-China Relations
Mr. Baucus would succeed departing Ambassador Gary Locke, the first Chinese-American to serve in the post. Mr. Baucus would take the position at a time of growing tension over what Washington and its regional allies see as Beijing’s assertive posture in disputed areas. The Obama administration, in turn, has decided to refocus U.S. military and diplomatic resources on Asia, a move that has antagonized Beijing.
Earlier this month, U.S. officials protested a near-collision in international waters between U.S. and Chinese naval vessels. Officials warned the incident at sea cast doubt on maritime cooperation between the powers.