WASHINGTON - President Obama has been pleading with House Republican leaders lately to raise government revenues by overhauling the tax code to erase loopholes and other income exemptions.
It wasn't an idea he campaigned on last year, though the chairmen of his deficit reduction commission proposed doing just that in a report he shelved. But they also wanted to use the higher revenues to offset lowering the tax rates in order to boost economic growth, jobs and investment, which in turn would boost tax revenues and reduce the deficits.
But cutting tax rates doesn't play well with Democratic voters or with the White House, so Obama campaigned on raising taxes on the rich, won a second term and then ran into into a budget sequester fight of his own making and a wall of resistance from the Republicans in Congress.
Since it's now clear Obama isn't going to get any more tax revenue as long as the GOP controls the House, from where all revenue bills must originate, he is pursuing Plan B: Raise more tax revenues by ending billions of dollars in corporate welfare and other special tax preferences.
Well, it looks like House Republicans are going to give Obama at least half of what he wants in a bill to lower tax rates. In fact, they've been working on a tax reform bill that does just that for the past year in the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. But throughout the sequester fight, the president has been acting as if House Speaker John Boehner and his deputies haven't moved one iota in that direction.
At the height of that bitter battle last week, the president charged that the Republicans couldn't come up with "one tax loophole" that they were willing to get rid of to bring in more revenue.
That charge, as with many of his hysterical accusations, was patently untrue.
House Republicans have held 20 separate hearings on comprehensive tax reform and they have circulated a draft of their goals for wider discussion. Last month, Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp announced formation of 11 tax reform working groups to comb through the tax code with the aim of cleansing it of its worst provisions.The committee's stated goal is "that comprehensive tax reform should include top corporate and individual tax rates of 25 percent. That goal is embedded in the House Republican Budget Resolution for fiscal years 2012 and 2013.