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Jim Lee: Hold officials accountable for results

Lawmakers who are afraid to push forward with reforms to our tax code because it is an election year don't deserve to hold their elected position and should be replaced by voters in November.

Michigan Republican and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp put forward a plan last week to revamp the tax code, something that everyone agrees needs to be done. The last time there was a major revision to the code was '86, when Ronald Reagan was president.

The 1986 deal didn't come easily, for sure. And with the political climate in Washington as poisoned as it has been in recent years, the chance at any grand deal on any major issue ranges from slim to none. But aren't fighting the tough fight, hammering out the details, finding common ground and compromise some of the things that we elect our representatives in Congress to do?

Camp says his plan took three years to put together. He hadn't released the details when top lawmakers from both parties were calling it dead in the water.

Republicans in recent years have earned the reputation as the Party of No. Public opinion of the party as a whole remains low, and the general consensus is that its top priority remains blocking President Barack Obama at every turn.

The biggest stain on the Republican Party's credibility is its endless harping against the Affordable Care Act, without having any reasonable plan for reforms that could be implemented instead. Like tax reform, immigration reform and a host of other major issues, there was a general consensus that skyrocketing health-care costs needed to be contained and that something needed to be done to fix the problem. That's why Mitt Romney, as governor of Massachusetts, put in place health-care reforms that were used as a model for Obama's plan.

If Republicans would have let Romney tout his success in that area while he was running for president, instead of forcing him to essentially disavow his own health reforms, he'd probably be sitting in the White House now instead of Obama. Republicans for years touted many of the same things that are in the Affordable Care Act. They only became bad ideas when they were proposed by Democrats.

During that same presidential campaign where Republicans left Romney swinging in the wind, candidates from both parties advocated reform of our tax code. Democrats used scare tactics like saying Republicans would take all the deductions away from the middle class and give the savings to the rich; Republicans said they would never support changes that resulted in more taxes for the upper class. But there remains a general consensus that change is needed.

So now along comes Camp with an effort that he put years into composing. It uses some of the ideas proposed by Obama, and it uses some of the ideas proposed by Republicans. Both parties can see things they like in the proposal; and both camps can see things that they would oppose or work to change.

In a Congress not stymied by dysfunctional members who view compromise as the ultimate form of surrender, there might be some possibility of getting a proposal that everyone - or at least a majority - could sign off on, even in an election year.

But Republican candidates don't want to do anything that might encourage right wing competition in their re-election bids, and Democrats hoping to hold control of the Senate don't want to do anything that might weaken the chances of some of their more vulnerable members of winning their races. So the proposal is dead in the water, just like immigration reform.

More than anything else, this career politician mentality of protecting their elected position above doing the job that they were elected to do is the biggest reason why we need term limits.

If our system worked the way it was intended, elected officials who put off doing the nation's work because their focus is on keeping their job would get their reward on election day, when voters booted them from office. History says that won't happen though.

We'll keep putting the same people back in office, and keep complaining about how terrible it is that we get the same results, when what we should be doing is telling our elected leaders in Congress: Get the tax reform plan done by November, or pack your bags and go home.

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