The latest indication that new tax legislation is a high priority for House Republicans came this week when House Republican Policy Chairman Christopher Cox of California sent around the early returns from a survey of members taken over the recess.
According to a memo obtained by CongressDaily, as of Wednesday, 70 members had submitted lists of their top five legislative priorities for the fall and the remainder of the 105th Congress. Various tax issues got 70 mentions - the highest of any category. The responses - most of which, Cox wrote, "appear to have been personally filled out by members" - listed such tax items as IRS restructuring and the proposed "Taxpayer Bill of Rights," tax simplification, passage of a tax bill in 1998, repeal or reform of estate taxes, and passage of the tax- favored savings accounts for K-12 education championed by Sen. Paul Coverdell, R-Ga.
Another popular area was regulatory reform, which got 53 mentions from members interested in issues from FDA reform and agency elimination to unfunded mandates. Thirty-three members saw reauthorization of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act as a priority. Product liability and other legal reforms got 24 mentions, while review of Clean Air Act regulations got 17 and a ban on partial birth abortions got 15.
In an interview, Cox said the early tally was "misleading" and had not been released to the media in part because less than one- third of the GOP Conference had responded. He also said the preliminary survey "cannot represent our legislative agenda" because members respond differently when asked for their "top-of- mind" priorities rather than what is most important on their committees - or what constitutes "must pass" legislation before the end of the session.
Still, Cox said the high interest in tax reform in the survey is no surprise, adding, "the talk about tax simplication and the enthusiasm for truly significant tax reform is greater than ever."