House Ways and Means chairman says the IRS scandal could boost chances of Congress approving changes to tax code
While veteran Washington operatives doubt the chances of passing tax reform legislation, Camp said the IRS' malfeasance and the crisis of confidence it created in the agency's ability to fairly administration existing tax laws may actually give reform efforts enough of a political boost to overcome the vested interests that typically rally against changes to a tax code that often benefits them.
"I do think it's highlighted just how you are at the mercy of the IRS, and I think a lot of people are very fearful of an audit," Camp told the Washington Examiner. "So yes, I think it does help the cause of tax reform, because it's pointing out just how broken and unsustainable the code is. And I think a lot of people think: Do we really need 90,000 people in the IRS to make sure Americans are complying?"
Camp, 59, is viewed around Washington as a competent, professional lawmaker. Long-time Republican operatives refer to him with phrases like "well-respected" and "a very decent guy." But the congressman lacks the flair of some of the previous chairmen of the influential tax-writing committee.
The unfailingly polite Michigander doesn't have the aggressive personality of Californian Bill Thomas, who held the post during the latter part of the Republicans' previous majority. Nor does he have the flair that made Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., a cable news fixture before ethical failings forced him to relinquish the gavel. Indeed, Camp isn't even viewed as a power broker who can sway fellow Republicans.
But the explosion of the IRS scandal is casting a fresh spotlight on Camp and could upend perceptions of the 12-term representative.
Camp had been laboring quietly, albeit intensely, on a tax reform project that -- while likely to be lauded by conservative activist groups supportive of slashing rates and simplifying the code -- was viewed as noble but futile. Rather than facing the scrutiny of dozens of Washington tax lobbyists, however, Camp now has a potential audience of millions of voters looking for answers about an IRS gone rogue.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., remains central to the inquiry given that the panel is uniquely equipped and experienced to run investigations. But with Camp's enhanced authority to view sensitive IRS documents, Republican sources are referring to him as "critical" to the handling of a scandal that has already caused the Obama administration significant political damage and could cause the Democrats problems in 2014.
Camp, a former congressional staffer, said the scandal is "much broader and more complex" than the agency initially acknowledged. But in his typical understated fashion the congressman was more clinical than political in discussing his approach to the IRS investigation. To facilitate the inquiry, Camp created a website, where people who believe they were targeted by the IRS can file complaints for committee review.
"We're going to follow the facts, we're going to follow the facts wherever they lead," he said. "We're going to let the facts lead us and I'm not going to try to draw conclusions about where we may end up before we get there. This is going to be painstaking and take a long time. But it's very important that we get the truth, and we hold those accountable who violated both the spirit and letter of the law."
Camp's tenure as Ways and Means chairman ends in 18 months. House Republicans limit their members to three terms atop a committee, and the congressman is not expected to receive the occasional waiver granted to extend a chairman's tenure. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is in line succeed him. ?