July 20, 2017 / 5:04 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. Senate panel approves Trump pick for top Treasury tax job

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican-led U.S. Senate Finance Committee unanimously on Thursday approved President Donald Trump’s pick for the Treasury Department’s top tax policy job, sending the nomination on to consideration by the full Senate.

David Kautter, a former Senate legislative aide and long-time tax policy expert, would play a key role in the Republican push to overhaul the U.S. tax code this year, if confirmed by the 100-seat chamber as assistant Treasury secretary for tax policy.

“I’m hoping that he can be confirmed by the full Senate in short order,” said Senator Orrin Hatch, the finance committee’s Republican chairman.

No floor vote has been scheduled.

Kautter was most recently a tax partner at the firm RSM, which provides tax and audit services. He was also director of American University’s Kogod Tax Center and had a long career at the auditing and consulting firm Ernst & Young LLP.

Republicans are trying to pursue tax reform along partisan lines though a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation, which would allow them to pass tax legislation by a simple majority in the Senate. Republicans control the chamber by only a 52-48 margin and would need 60 votes for tax reform without reconciliation.

Democrats reject the Republican approach to tax reform, which they say would benefit corporations and the wealthy but do little for middle-class families.

Senator Ron Wyden, the finance panel’s top Democrat, said he decided to support Kautter because he believed the nominee would work to make tax reform a bipartisan effort between Republicans and Democrats.

“Bringing both sides together on the tax reform question is the key to a major set of economic reforms that will help us create more good-paying jobs and grow wages for working-class families,” Wyden said.

“It is my hope that Mr. Kautter can help bring Republicans and Democrats together.”

Democrats initially criticized Kautter for not doing more as national tax director at Ernst & Young to prevent a tax avoidance scandal involving tax shelters for wealthy clients that led to criminal charges more than a decade ago.

Kautter told lawmakers in a hearing this week that he regretted not doing more.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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