If Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel’s outlook is any indication, President-elect Barack Obama will get along just fine with House Democrats on some of his biggest priorities.
On health care reform and tax code changes, the New York Democrat repeatedly said he’d follow the president-elect’s lead on process and policy because he doesn’t anticipate their being much daylight between himself, the Democratic leadership and the White House once Obama moves in.
“If he picked up a Bush page or a Cheney page by mistake, we’d have a problem,” Rangel told reporters during a Thursday afternoon briefing. “But I don’t see any problem. I can’t begin to tell you young people how lucky I am as an old guy at last to be able to say that I don’t have to convince the president or the administration on principle. I may have big problems in terms of how you do it, but what a relief!”
“Listen, all of this may be exciting for you to try to get me in trouble with the next president,” he told a reporter who asked what he’d think if Obama wanted to do middle-class tax cuts first and wait on raising the income tax rates for the highest brackets. “But I’m going to make it abundantly clear, it’s going to be hard for him to say anything that I’m going to disagree with.”
“It doesn’t bother me that I’m following the direction of the president,” Rangel said at another point, laughing. “What a great honor it would for me” to say he supported Obama to accomplish tax reform.
On the issue of overhauling the health care system, Rangel said it didn’t matter to him if Obama took the lead there, too.
“I would hope that we could find some way that there’s no conflict with Democrats in coming up with a bill that is supported by the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
"Quite frankly I don’t give a damn who comes up with what first,” or however else the process evolves, he said. “How we do it doesn’t matter.”
Rangel said in his opinion, he thinks health care and tax code overhaul should be done on a dual track because he doesn't think you can tackle an issue as big as health reform -- which contains so many tax components -- seperate from the other.
That does not preclude the committee looking at tax cuts as a part of a stimulus package, however.