A highway bill is “in the realm of the doable” in the next two years, said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in remarks on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.
In a conversation with host George Stephanopoulos Boehner said that both he and President Obama came to Washington to get something done rather than butt heads.
“And it’s up to us to see where the common ground is. But tax reform, a big highway bill, certainly are in the realm of doable,” he said.
Boehner was referring to the period beginning in January, when a new Congress is sworn in and Obama begins the last two years of his term.
The current short-term highway bill runs until next May, when it either must be extended again or replaced by another bill.
Some in Congress hold out hope that a fully funded bill could be written and passed during the lame-duck session following the November mid-term election, but Boehner’s comment indicates he does not expect that to happen.
Boehner did not discuss the question of funding for the highway bill. But his belief that tax reform is “doable” signals a possible solution.
Both the Obama administration and Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, have suggested using tax reform to generate one-time funds for a multi-year highway program.
While their proposals are alike in concept they are significantly different in detail.
Obama focuses on corporate taxes, proposing to lowering the rate from 35% to 28%, and to 25% for manufacturers. He would pay for the change by eliminating tax loopholes and creating incentives to bring business back from overseas. This would yield $150 billion for a highway bill.
Camp has proposed broader reform of the entire tax system, creating a new individual tax structure by collapsing the current complex system into two brackets: 10% and 25%, depending on income. It would also lower the corporate rate to 25%. This would yield $126.2 billion for highways.
The possibility of reconciling these differences is complicated by Camp’s scheduled departure from the Ways and Means chair at the end of this year. It remains to be seen if his successor will support the same approach.