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U.S. House tax-writing chair questions committee term limits

March 7, 2014

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Representative Dave Camp, who last week unveiled sweeping tax reform ideas, on Wednesday voiced discontent with Republican rules that would force him to give up his chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee next year, but would not say whether he would seek an exemption to stay on.

House of Representatives Republicans, who control the chamber, limit their lawmakers to six years as chairman or senior minority party member of a committee.

Asked whether those term limits were a mistake, the Michigan Republican told reporters at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, “Yeah, I think so.”

But Camp would not say whether he would ask House leaders to waive the rules to let him continue as Ways and Means chairman next year, a move that could give his tax reform ideas more currency on Capitol Hill.

“I’m not going to discuss those options until we’ve won the majority” in November’s congressional elections, Camp said. All 435 seats in the House will be up for grabs, and Republicans are expected to hold onto their majority in the House.

If Camp were to seek and win more time as head of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, it could give a boost to the comprehensive tax reforms he made public last week, which aim to simplify the tax code.

While Camp told reporters “there is a lot of opportunity left” this year for the House to consider major tax reform legislation, the first in decades, he would not guarantee that his panel will write and vote on a massive bill this year.

Congress is not expected to take on such a complicated and divisive debate in this election year.

Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner would not comment on Camp’s prospects if he sought to retain his committee chairmanship in the next Congress that convenes in January 2015.

“If any chairman wishes to seek a waiver, that will be a decision for the Steering Committee at the appropriate time,” Steel said, which likely would be some time after November’s elections.

There has been speculation that the term limits on committee chairs could cause Camp to seek the House Budget Committee chairmanship with the current chairman, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, taking over Ways and Means.

If Camp were to stay at Ways and Means, it is unclear what would happen to Ryan, who already has won one waiver on the budget panel term limit.

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)