We have a once in a generation opportunity to modernize our tax code if Republicans include Democrats in the legislative process.

Share story

Historically, comprehensive tax reform has only worked when it has been a bipartisan effort. Now is not the time to break that tradition.

The last time a major overhaul of our tax code was successful, a Republican president and a bipartisan group in Congress came together to help the American people by reforming parts of the tax code that weren’t working. That process was the product of years of sustained effort and extensive debate. The end product was not perfect — no piece of legislation is — but it was a monumental achievement. And we would be wise to learn from this history as we make an attempt at the first comprehensive tax reform effort since 1986.

The tax code touches every American’s life, whether you’re a small-business owner creating jobs in our community, a family saving for your child’s college tuition, a senior trying to pay for prescription drugs or an entrepreneur inventing the next medical breakthrough. Tax reform matters to every American, and that’s why I’m calling for a bipartisan approach. It is my hope that by coming together, we can move past partisan gridlock and make a real impact on the lives of families and businesses across the country.

I serve on the House Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax reform. It also has jurisdiction over health care issues, and earlier this year took up the Republicans’ health care repeal bill. If 1986 tax reform was the model of bipartisanship and thoughtful policymaking, the health care repeal bill was the polar opposite, wholly partisan and shrouded in secrecy until the last possible moment.

The contrasting results of these processes are instructive. On the one hand, negotiators in 1986 crafted a tax reform bill in a bipartisan manner after a year of public hearings and it passed with unanimous support out of committee. On the other, a health care bill was hastily drafted behind closed doors and was pulled from the House floor at the last minute because it didn’t even have enough Republican votes to pass. Only one of these measures made it across the finish line to become law and it’s obvious why.

If Republicans had worked with Democrats to write health care legislation that lived up to the promise of “insurance for everybody” at a lower cost, they could have had broad support. Instead, they released the bill with just 36 hours before we had to vote on it in committee. We didn’t even have information on how many of our constituents would be affected or kicked off their health care plans before the vote. And at the eleventh hour, changes were still being made to the bill. One party ramming legislation through without input from the other side is not the way to govern, particularly on policies that have such a direct and personal effect on people’s lives.

We all seem to agree our tax laws are out of date — what’s still up for debate is how to fix it. But we have a once in a generation opportunity to modernize our tax code if Republicans include Democrats in the legislative process. Comprehensive tax reform should be about fairness for all Americans, and is necessary to give working families and businesses the stability to plan for the future. It is through the combination of different perspectives with the common goal of supporting opportunity for every American that we can accomplish something truly worthwhile. As a former businesswoman, I stand ready to come to the negotiating table and urge my Republican colleagues to allow an open and collaborative process.