Dave Camp and the Charge of the Republican Light-Headed Brigade

By Hugh Hewitt

Political and policy fiasco alert: The GOP Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee is gearing up to waste the House Republican Majority's energy, time and political goodwill on a doomed-to-fail scheme that conservative realists know cannot emerge from Congress. The price of pursuing this strategy will be the loss of many good and necessary initiatives that could get done, initiatives that could unify and energize the voting public behind an expanded GOP House majority in 2014 and gains in the Senate as well. The consequence of this strategic blunder could be the loss of the House majority.

Everybody call Eric Cantor and beg the House GOP Leader to stop this farce from unfolding.

Don't miss Politico's love letter to lame duck Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp this morning, full of secret plans for secret meetings fueled by secret polls on how Michigan Congressman Dave Camp is going to pull the tax reform unicorn out of a secret hat with the help of lame-lame duck Democratic Senator Max Baucus because the apparently indifferent-to-tax-reform country is actually, really-and-truly so interested in unicorn tax reform that Ways & Means cannot be bothered to do tax reform of the sort that could pass -- such as the repeal of the job-destroying Medical Device Tax -- because it Must. Do. Big. Things.

Perhaps Dave Camp missed it, but Max Baucus announced his retirement yesterday because he has become something of a pariah on the Hill, one of the key engineers of the Obamacare "train wreck," as Baucus himself called it. The hard reality of the situation is that that the GOP needs to stay far, far away from Baucus, but that hasn't settled on Camp because, as Politico reveals, Camp has a secret poll:

The poll found that this statement was also supported by upward of 80 percent of respondents: “We need a tax code that protects taxpayers, not special interests, by creating a simpler, fairer code without all the loopholes.”

Wow. What a stunner. Put out a special edition: "Mandate for whatever nonsense Dave Camp wants."

Of course 80% of Americans will say yes to that inane question. What do the other 20% favor --looting every other week? That the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee has to peddle such pap is not evidence of a groundswell of support for his unicorn hunt but is instead damning evidence of just the opposite conclusion.

Ask yourself about this secret poll: "So what?" Did the House GOP put out a detailed plan and run on it in 2012? No, and neither did the GOP's nominee Mitt Romney. Are rallies springing up around the country demanding Camp act? Are talk shows buzzing about the GOP's tax initiative? Of course not. There is no "GOP plan." There is the Dave Camp plan which he hasn't let anyone see, and which has been crafted with Max Baucus.

"Regular order" indeed. This is a maneuver of staggering arrogance to flank the GOP base, exclude it from the House GOP agenda, and attempt to browbeat the House caucus into pursuing an utterly stupid initiative with no chance of passing into law while costing every opportunity to do something that will define the party for the 2014 midterms.

GOP freshmen should flee from this fiasco in the making, and members of Ways & Means should refuse to abet this strategic disaster that will undo the reality of tax reform for years to come, much like the failure of the big "secret deal" on immigration reform in 2006 crippled the idea of immigration reform for seven years.

You can't climb Mount Everest in certain seasons, and this is the season you can't do smart, comprehensive, conservative tax reform because the United State Senate is led by Harry Reid and the president is Barack Obama.

Let me repeat this obvious, enormous fact: The House cannot force through smart, comprehensive, and conservative tax reform when the United States Senate is led by Harry Reid and the president is Barack Obama.

The House GOP always responds to its conservative critics that "we only have one-half of one third of the federal government." It's usually offered as an excuse for not doing hard things which might get done at great political cost, but where is that saying now that Dave Camp is urging the House GOP to launch a suicide charge up a hill that cannot be taken in pursuit of a compromise with Democrats we don't trust?

Thus the Charge of the Republican Light-headed Brigade begins. Many political careers will be lost or damaged in the process, and quite possibly the House GOP majority as voters watch a major, party-defining failure unfold in slow, slow motion.

Here's the reality of the situation which Members will tell you in private: Dave Camp is captive to a ticking clock on his time atop Ways & Means. So instead of doing the smart and obvious --but not history-making-- relatively small, but very good things like blasting through a Medical Device Tax repeal to test the Senate's test vote on the subject on March 22 (the vote in the Senate was 79 to 20 in favor of repeal) Camp is obliging the entire House Caucus to go through a pantomime with him.

Look, he's the Chair of Ways & Means, and under the absurd rules of the House, that means he gets to do whatever damn thing he wants to do with the Committee. He can effectively waste the Committee's two years, but what is House GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy doing abetting this?

(Best possible answer: Perhaps he is setting Camp up to have Eric Cantor say to him: "You heard what they all said Dave, we aren't doing this." That would be a neat display of political skill that the House GOP hasn't seen in a bit, provided it doesn't take very long to accomplish.)

Call your GOP Representative --202-225-3121-- and tell them you are opposed to this farce, that you don't want to waste time dancing with Max Baucus and praying for Harry Reid's and President Obama's blessing on a unicorn tax reform plan that will end up killing off your last deductions like charitable giving and home mortgage interest while not reducing rates significantly. We know President Obama isn't going to do the latter but will gladly embrace a "compromise" that kills deductions but barely touches or even slightly raises rates. The president would like nothing more than to offer a "compromise" on a Camp-Baucus-Reid "tax reform" package in the summer of 2014 which the House GOP would have to reject so that the president could barnstorm the country berating the GOP majority as the opponents of reform.

This is like a horror movie where everyone knows the teenagers shouldn't open the door to the basement. But they always open the door to the basement.

"Comprehensive tax reform" is an impossible-this-Congress, costly, and diverting exercise in vanity, and everyone involved in it has put their own interests ahead of the House GOP's, and especially ahead of industries like the medical device business that desperately needs what the Ways & Means Committee could actually deliver but won't because it is under the control of a lame duck looking for one of those legacy things so dangerous to the ordinary taxpayer but so captivating of people who have stayed inside the Beltway too long.

What a fiasco.