Tax Reform Advocate Dave Camp to Retire

Tax Reform Advocate Dave Camp to Retire
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Michigan Republican Rep. Dave Camp, the chairman of the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, announced Monday that he will not seek re-election this fall after serving 12 terms.

Camp’s chairmanship was term-limited, as he is completing six years as the top Republican on the panel, and while he could have sought a waiver to continue, there was much speculation on Capitol Hill that he would retire. Camp’s exit could leave the door open for Paul Ryan to take the helm of Ways and Means -- a position he has said interests him. Ryan, who chairs the Budget Committee, is expected to release his new budget outline on Tuesday.

As head of the panel, Camp has made overhauling the nation’s mammoth tax code his quest. He forged an alliance with his Democratic counterpart in the Senate, Finance Chairman Max Baucus, and the pair traveled the country together last year promoting reform. But Baucus later announced his own retirement, and left the Senate earlier this year to become ambassador to China. By then, prospects of tax reform appeared ever more elusive.

Still, Camp pushed on, introducing overhaul legislation last month. But his proposals to simplify the tax code were met with resistance from his own party, as members were concerned about voting on a measure that could divide them in an election year.

At a breakfast with reporters last month, Camp said term limits on chairmen in the House are a mistake, since tenure includes time spent as a ranking member of the committee while in the minority. But he wouldn’t say whether he would seek a waiver.

On Monday, Camp made his intentions clear, saying that he reached the decision to retire “after much consideration and discussion with my family.” In his final months, he pledged to continue his focus on tax policy.

“During the next nine months, I will redouble my efforts to grow our economy and expand opportunity for every American by fixing our broken tax code, permanently solving physician payments for seniors, strengthening the social safety net and finding new markets for U.S. goods and services,” he said.

Camp battled non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the past, and announced at the end of 2012 that he was cancer-free. The lawmaker is well-respected on Capitol Hill and his retirement announcement garnered praise from GOP leaders.

The Michigan Republican was elected in 1990, the same year as now-Speaker John Boehner. “From the beginning, I have been impressed by his wisdom and thoughtfulness, and grateful for his friendship,” Boehner said Monday. “He has been a leader in the fight to increase economic growth and help create more American jobs by reforming our tax code, pushing for more effective free trade agreements, and saving Social Security and Medicare for future generations. Along with his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee, the entire House Republican Conference, and the whole House, I will miss him.”

Democrats seized on Camp’s retirement, and noted his 4th Congressional District’s history of backing Barack Obama in 2008. But the district appears to be solidly Republican, according to nonpartisan Cook Political Report.

“Yet another senior Republican committee chairman is abandoning John Boehner and his toxic Republican Congress,” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel said Monday. The filing deadline to enter the race is April 22.

Camp is the fourth member of the Michigan delegation to announce retirement plans this year, following House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, Senate Armed Services Chair Carl Levin, and the House’s longest-serving member, Democrat John Dingell. Camp had once been considered a potential candidate to replace Levin, but has already ruled out a bid. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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