U.S. Congress tax panels welcome fresh faces

WASHINGTON Thu Jan 3, 2013 4:49pm EST

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) speaks to the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011. REUTERS/Larry Downing

U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) speaks to the 38th annual Conservative Political Action Conference meeting at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, February 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The rosters of the powerful, tax-writing panels of the U.S. Congress were nearly filled out on Thursday, with three prominent Republicans named to the Senate Finance Committee.

At a time when tax-and-spending issues are at center stage, Republican Senators Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Johnny Isakson of Georgia and Rob Portman of Ohio are joining the finance panel. It is chaired by Montana Democrat Max Baucus.

Toomey in 2011 proposed a tax reform plan that included raising revenues - taboo to many Republicans. Portman was a top lieutenant to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and served as his debate-preparation sparring partner.

"Our tax code is in desperate need for a comprehensive overhaul," said Senator Orrin Hatch, the committee's top Republican, on Thursday in a statement. With the new Republican members on board, "we can and will achieve significant reforms."

The Republicans join two new Democrats on the committee: Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Michael Bennet of Colorado. They were named last month. Democrats, who control the Senate overall, have a 13 to 11 voting advantage on the committee.

Its make-up could change again soon if Democrat John Kerry of Massachusetts is confirmed to be President Barack Obama's secretary of state.

Business lobbyists routinely patrol the hearing rooms and hallways of Capitol Hill's tax committees, whose members can gather in major campaign contributions.

Members of the Ways and Means Committee are among the top fund-raisers in the House, according to an April 2012 study by the Sunlight Foundation, a liberal-leaning campaign finance watchdog group.

In the House, Republicans Tim Griffin of Arkansas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Todd Young of Indiana have joined the Ways and Means Committee. New Democrats are Allyson Schwartz of Pennsylvania, Danny Davis of Illinois and Linda Sanchez of California.

Republicans control the House overall and hold a 23 to 16 voting advantage on Ways and Means. There is one Republican spot on the panel still to be filled. Republican Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, from Michigan, in November promised to pass a tax reform bill out of the committee in 2013.

Obama, in his November 7 presidential victory speech, called for an overhaul of the tax code.

(Reporting by Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Steve Orlofsky; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (1)
sylvan wrote:
So how does putting Pat Toomey on the tax committee in the Senate change things? The Democrats outnumber the GOPers in the Senate 55-45, and a professional, competent grown up is running the Senate. I saw the article included how the House Republicans outnumber House Democrats but the author evidently could see the need to point out the “facts” in the Senate. Are you afraid the GOPer trolls will be angry if you point out they lost? I have news for you, they are always angry and outraged about something. Currently the outrage revolves around the President insisting on pay our bills. Where did President Obama come up with such a shocking diabolical plan?

Jan 04, 2013 5:20am EST  --  Report as abuse
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