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Top Dem casts doubt on tax reform in 2013

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The ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee said Tuesday that he is “not very confident” that Congress will hammer out an agreement this year on tax reform.

Speaking at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Rep. Sander M. Levin, Michigan Democrat, predicted that tax and entitlement reform will take a back seat over the next six weeks while Congress wrestles over how to handle the looming automatic spending cuts to domestic and defense programs and the fight over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Asked whether he is confident that lawmakers will hash out an agreement to overhaul the nation’s tax code, Mr. Levin responded, “I am not very confident, I am hopeful.”

Mr. Levin said that part of the problem is that lawmakers have been reluctant to spell out what deductions or loopholes they want to eliminate in order to replace the revenue lost from lowering individual and corporate tax rates.

“We need to move away from the rhetoric,” he said.

He also blamed tensions within the House Republican conference for a lot of the legislative gridlock on Capitol Hill, including on the debt ceiling.

“There has been, in a sense, a radicalization of the Republican conference in the House,” he said.

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