USA Today: Blue Dog Democrats to GOP: Negotiate with us on taxes. It's the only way forward.
If Congress wants to find out the best strategy to ensure long-term success on tax reform, it must look to its history. The last time Congress passed a comprehensive, bipartisan overhaul of our tax system was over three decades ago. The 1986 tax reform drive was successful because it was an open, bipartisan effort.
Since that time, our economy has seen tremendous change, from increased global interconnectivity to the use of automation and radical restructuring of work. Every single American has seen this change in their personal lives. For some, it has improved their lives, but for too many, it has created a continuous struggle to find a good-paying job.
The reality is that too many communities across the country feel as though Washington has fallen out of touch with the struggles they face, particularly communities that have seen local companies shut down and move jobs elsewhere.
As the economy has changed, the tax code has remained the same and it must be updated to reflect the current economic landscape. It is our job in Congress to work together to develop policies that create good-paying jobs, strengthen the middle class, and allow small businesses and companies to thrive, spurring economic growth.
Since its founding in 1995, the Blue Dog Coalition has served as a bridge from Democrats to Republicans on important legislation. In a time when the American people worry about extreme partisanship and whether Congress can get things done on their behalf, the Blue Dogs stand ready to help move our country forward.
In July, the Big Six group of Republicans working on taxes said they expected tax reform legislation "to move through the committees this fall, under regular order, followed by consideration on the House and Senate floors.” Today, however, Republicans are not on a path to follow through. In fact, they are on the path to doing the opposite.
House Speaker Paul Ryan has said in recent interviews that he thinks it would be a “big mistake” not to use the reconciliation process for tax reform — the same failed, partisan process Republicans used in their attempts to repeal health care. If we want to increase our chances of passing real reform, we must remember to look to our history and use the bipartisan process of regular order.
We call on Congressional Republicans to stop catering to the extremes of their party and to give the Blue Dog Coalition a real seat at the negotiating table on tax reform. The American people want to see Democrats and Republicans stop the partisan bickering and do our job — to govern.
We Blue Dogs know from experience that if you want to be serious about going into negotiations, you’ve got to know your principles. That’s why we’re announcing our five principles on tax reform, in hopes that Republicans will give us a real seat at the negotiating table:
—Republicans must abandon the failed, partisan reconciliation process for major reform, and follow through with the expectation of using the bipartisan process of regular order.
—Tax reform must be credibly revenue neutral, and unrealistic rosy economic growth projections should not be used to offset the costs of tax reform or tax relief.
—The middle class must be the priority, and tax reform should not shift the distributional balance to the wealthy.
—In order to maintain our ability to compete globally, American companies need a more competitive corporate tax rate and structure. We must also account for the needs of small businesses when it comes to setting tax rates.
—We should consider using tax reform as an opportunity to address the funding challenges for the Highway Trust Fund.
As is always the case when both parties come together to negotiate, there will be areas where we agree and areas where we disagree, and both sides may have to find a way to compromise. But that’s how Congress is intended to work — we are supposed to have real, substantive debate on difficult issues, with give and take on both sides.
Let’s stop using the partisan talking points, roll up our sleeves and get to work. Because that’s the only way Congress can get big things done, and, in turn, restore the faith of the American people in their government.
Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Ill., are the co-chairs of the 18-member Blue Dog Coalition.