Fifty House Republican freshmen have written this week to their party leaders to declare--not so surprisingly--that they believe it is important to stop the equivalent of a tax increase by renewing the expiring George W. Bush-era tax rates.
They also write that it is time to reform the tax code to close “special-interest loopholes.” But for some of these freshmen, apparently, that does not mean all special-interest loopholes.
As the House is set to vote on competing Republican and Democratic tax-cut extension plans this week, the GOP freshmen predictably bash the alternative from Democrats “who control Washington”--which would not extend the tax cut for wealthy Americans whose family incomes exceed $250,000 a year--as an approach that would harm the fragile economy.
But more interesting is that the letter--which is dated Monday to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.--then goes on to assert that “stopping the tax hike is not enough” and that meaningful tax code reform and simplification must also be undertaken.
As part of that, they complain: “Today’s code is littered with special-interest loopholes that pick winners and losers.”
What is not mentioned is that many of these same freshmen had signed a letter to Boehner earlier this year spearheaded by freshman Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., to argue against allowing expiration in January of the little-known practice of giving their hometown businesses breaks from import tariffs.
Lawmakers have been doing this by quietly introducing these bills to eliminate tariffs for years at a time. These exemptions have saved local manufacturers hundreds of thousands of dollars in duties, while costing the U.S. Treasury millions of dollars in lost revenue every year.
But at the start of this session, House Republicans seemed to have decided this practice must end. They lumped such targeted tariff breaks into their self-imposed pledge to eliminate special-interest favors.
That zeal seems to have waned in the time since, as more than 80 Republicans--including Reed and several other freshmen signing the letter to Boehner on Monday complaining about loopholes--have joined 67 Democrats in introducing more than 1,250 bills that would continue such tariff breaks.
“My concern is that we in Congress end up being able to pick winners and losers,” complained Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., who has not introduced such a bill, of the tariff relief earlier this month.
Here is a list from the House Ways and Means Committee of the various tariff-relief bills that have been introduced this session and their sponsors.