(UPDATE) And You Thought the NSA and CIA Were Secretive…
The Hill reports that Majority Leader Harry Reid has stated that he wouldn’t be taking part in the process set up by Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to engage the rest of the Senate on the tax reform issue.
Reid suggested that other senators who aren’t on the tax-writing committee should stand down, and stressed with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) that raising nearly $1 trillion in revenue should be the starting point for any tax reform negotiations.
“I’m not going to be involved in this. I’m not on the committee. I’m not going to do it. I’m not even going to consider it,” Reid told reporters.
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As the Senate Finance Committee’s deadline nears for lawmakers to participate in its “blank slate” process, “which puts the onus on lawmakers to argue for what credits and deductions should be preserved in a streamlined tax code,” Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), are promising their colleagues that any suggestions they submit as to which deductions and credits should be protected in the tax reform will not be released “by either the committee or the National Archives” for 50 years, according to The Hill.
Deeming the submissions confidential, the Senate’s top tax writers have said only certain staff members – 10 in all – will get to review a senator’s written suggestions. Each submission will also be given its own ID number and be kept on both password-protected servers, with printed versions kept in locked safes.
A Finance Committee aide said that keeping the submissions confidential for a half century was “standard operating procedure for sensitive materials including investigation materials,” according to The Hill.
The “blank slate” process illustrates, according to The Hill, “the enormous pressure being brought to bear by K Street lobbyists, who are working furiously to protect their clients and the tax provisions that benefit them.”
From the start of the process, senators have expressed concerns that Baucus and Hatch wouldn’t be able to keep their proposals private. Given the enormous amount of money at stake — more than $1 trillion a year in tax expenditures — blowback from interest groups and businesses could easily derail the process.
Is the secrecy a good thing or a bad thing in this particular process?
How about in the general legislative process?
I am conflicted on this. Curious about your thoughts.
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