News / USA

Lew, US Republicans Agree on Need for Tax Overhaul

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 11, 2013.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 11, 2013.
Reuters
U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Republican lawmakers concurred on Thursday that overhauls of the corporate and individual tax codes should be tackled together, but their agreement ended there.

Diverging sharply on whether new federal revenues should be raised from the affluent, Lew and the Republicans left prospects for comprehensive tax reform cloudy amid persistent partisan conflict on Capitol Hill over tax-and-spending policy.

A day after the White House released a 2014 budget plan it hoped could spark a deal with Congress on cutting deficits and changing the tax code, Lew testified before the House of Representatives' tax-law writing Ways and Means Committee.

Democratic President Barack Obama last year proposed a revamp of the business tax code alone, but Republicans said corporate and individual taxes must be reformed in unison. Lew assured Republicans that Obama agreed with that strategy.

"Just intellectually, one has to look at it as a whole," he said.

Obama called for $580 billion in new revenue from the wealthy in his 2014 budget on Wednesday, including a new minimum tax and curbs to deductions.

Most Republicans criticized the budget as too reliant on raising taxes and inadequate in cutting spending.

Republican Representative Dave Camp, the chairman of the committee, said the tax code should lower rates for all Americans instead of bringing more money into Washington.

"This budget is a first step, but America can do better than what the president is proposing here," he said.

Lew said any agreement must include new revenue.

In his confirmation hearing in February, Lew called tax reform a top priority. Formerly a two-time budget director and Obama's chief of staff, Lew helped pass the nation's last major tax overhaul in 1986 as a congressional staff member.

At a breakfast earlier on Thursday, Camp praised Obama, saying he has "evolved" by explicitly pledging not to raise total corporate taxes as part of a tax overhaul.

Prior budgets had been unclear on that point, and the business community was worried that corporate tax breaks would be trimmed to help curb deficits.

Democratic congressman Jim McDermott complained that Obama kept offering Republicans compromises, such as the White House proposal to change the inflation adjustment for Social Security, but Republicans gave nothing in return.

"The president continues to reach out and Republicans say, 'Yeah we'll take that, but we don't want to take any of the balance that has to go along with it,' " McDermott said, referring to revenue.

Lew also said the administration is willing to talk to Republicans about moving to a territorial tax system, which would largely exempt big companies' foreign income from taxation. But Lew said protections would be vital to prevent companies from moving domestic profits offshore.

Both parties are also largely opposed to a tax on financialtransactions, a popular idea in Europe to make banks pay for the help they got during the financial crisis. Lew on Thursday repeated the Obama administration's opposition to that tax.

Debt Bargaining

Lew also repeated the White House was opposed to using the nation's debt limit as a bargaining chip for fiscal policy.

Republicans have previously balked at raising the debt ceiling without an agreement on further government spending cuts, and are likely to revive the issue this summer after the current suspension of the debt limit expires on May 19.

Once the United States breaches its debt limit, the government would no longer be able to borrow money and make certain payments - though the Treasury can use emergency cash measures to push off the day of reckoning into July.

Some Republicans have proposed legislation to prioritize U.S. payments on government bonds if the United States hits its debt limit in order to avoid a credit default. The moves show their willingness for further brinkmanship.

"There's no way you can choose about paying your bills without being in default on one or another obligation," Lew said.

You May Like

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs