Republican Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam sat down recently with the Alley to talk tax reform, what he's learned after more than a year in the majority and how engaged K Street should be on the Hill. The excerpts below have been edited for clarity and length.
ALLEY: What are the chances that tax reform gets seriously considered next year? And give me another set of odds for whether it passes it not.
ROSKAM: Well it's hard to give you numbers. Let me take a pass at it this way. There will be a tax reform package, I predict, that comes out of the House that is created with a mind towards enactment, not a messaging bill. I think that that will happen, and I think that we could get 218 votes at least on whatever that is. A lot of the disposition, though, of whether it gets minted or not I think is decided in November.
ALLEY: How much do you think is left to be done and how engaged should K Street be?
ROSKAM: Think about the subtleties of some of the things that are, you know, they're all inside baseball; they're all industry speak and you've got to communicate the subtleties of why they are important. And there are going to be some value decisions that are made on extenders. And then clearly, next year, if we're able to take on reform we're going to give it everything we got to do it.
ALLEY: What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the past 18 months?
ROSKAM: The biggest lesson is give good members good information and give them time and you're going to get to a better result than if you don't give them information and you tell them you got to vote on it tomorrow.
ALLEY: I want to go Office Space on you. What would you say you do here?
ROSKAM: I'm helping [Republican Whip] Kevin McCarthy talk to more individual members of Congress than any two people under the dome. What we're really doing is talking to Republican members trying to drive towards consensus.
ALLEY: Talk about the chief deputy whip position. You've been hand-picked to be McCarthy's No. 2. Help me understand where you're trying to go and how you balance that with being the No. 2.
ROSKAM: McCarthy's a natural. The guy is just really good at what he does and we came into the same class together in '06 and I got to know him because he was on the campaign trail, helping and I was involved in a competitive race. And Kevin came in and he was helpful and so as we moved forward what was unique, the silver lining of a very small class, is that you can make some connections and some friendships early. But he's the person that was elected whip. You have one whip and he's the elected member, very easily elected. It's within his discretion to decide who he'd like to invite into this role and he asked me and I was honored.
ALLEY: And how then do you navigate your own ambitions? Is this the top?
ROSKAM: Here's what I figured out: There is a lot of time and energy spent in this town scheming and dreaming and angling, and my general view of the world is do the things that are in front of you and do your best and do them well and that served me well, and I'm happy to be apart of this leadership team. I enjoyed being a part of the House I succeeded Henry Hyde and was able to be a person who was influential in the House, but it took time. So I intend to try to grow in the House.
ALLEY: You've won in a competitive district so talk to me about how that colors both your ability to do your leadership work and your having to keep a close eye on what folks at home are doing.
ROSKAM: I view it as an advantage just in terms of being able to relate to people walking a tough road and learning to communicate. You got to communicate in a way that's persuasive. I've enjoyed that and to the extent that you've got new members that have come in that are representing similar districts in order to maintain the majority you have to win suburban Philly, you got to win suburban Denver, suburban Chicago, suburban St. Louis and all of these areas and I think that we can compete and win in those areas and that's what I'm doing.
ALLEY: What's big? What's coming that we should be watching? Is there anything no one sees coming around the corner?
ROSKAM: I think that the president is remarkably underperforming and I mean I'm surprised by it. But he's coming off the football team that is always used to scoring on every drive and now all of a sudden he comes out and it's like, "Hey, man, you got hit, man, you got to run another pattern. Well I don't want to run a different pattern. I want to run down and out. Well if you run down and out then you're going to be down and out." And by contrast I think that this election in terms of larger themes is coming into Romney's sort of sweet spot.
With Michael Catalini