14 January 2014

An Early Look at the Next Expected Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee

image;With the nomination of current Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) to be ambassador to China, attention is moving to the man expected to take his place as the leader of the Senate’s tax-writing committee: Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. We’ve compiled a few excerpts from profiles written about Wyden that offer a glimpse into his work and a few of his priorities during his career on Capitol Hill.

Wyden currently serves as the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee and sits on the Finance Committee, Budget Committee, the Select Committee on Intelligence, Special Committee on Aging, and the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Senator Wyden has a keen interest in tax reform and has twice authored his own comprehensive, bipartisan bill. This excerpt from Politico last month offered an overview of his legislation:

“Wyden has his own comprehensive tax proposal, one he co-sponsors with Indiana Republican Sen. Dan Coats, and attention is likely to shift to that often-ignored proposal as observers seek clues to the likely incoming chairman’s intentions.

“Their plan would collapse the current six income tax rates to three, with the top rate set at 35 percent. The Wyden-Coats plan would reduce the top corporate rate to 24 percent, down from the current 35 percent.”

It should be noted that the Wyden-Coats plan also preserves the charitable deduction.

A profile from the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) explains that “he [Wyden] is likely to try to renew momentum for an overhaul” but will also have to focus on “finding ways to keep some costly programs going.” One of those programs is Medicare which, according to the WSJ profile, Wyden “wants to shore up…by better focusing the program on treatment of chronic health problems.”

Of most interest to those in the nonprofit sector is the fact that Wyden does indeed have an active voice in calling for the protection of the charitable deduction. As noted above, the deduction is preserved in this tax reform plan. He also recently co-authored a letter with Senator John Thune (R-SD) calling for support of the “full scope and value of the charitable deduction.” His public affirmation that the charitable deduction is a lifeline, not a loophole has been well documented.

The most common denominator of nearly all of the profiles on Wyden over the last month is the contrast between him and his predecessor, Baucus. As Forbes noted:

“Wyden is in many ways the un-Baucus. While the Montanan is cautious and much more comfortable working behind the scenes, Wyden enthusiastically promotes his ideas in the public marketplace. Like many lawmakers, Baucus does not dive deeply into the details of legislation. By contrast, Wyden is a true policy wonk who thrives on the minutia.”

As we look to new leadership of the Senate Finance Committee, the Alliance for Charitable Reform will continue to encourage policies that preserve the private giving that sustains the broad spectrum of charitable organizations which help America’s communities thrive.