Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) has been pushing a plan to use a one-time tax on accumulated overseas corporate profits to pay for infrastructure projects since he first ran for office in 2012, but without much success.
Now with his political rivals poised to retain control of Congress and occupy the White House, Delaney’s repatriation tax proposal may find new life.
“There’s been comments coming out of the new administration indicating they’re interested in this kind of a framing,” the three-term congressman said recently.
As the only former chief executive of a publicly traded company in Congress, Delaney has burnished a centrist image. Last year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers looking for a way to generate revenue for the Highway Trust Fund, a pot of money designated for transportation projects, backed his bill for the one-time tax.
If Delaney can claim a piece of whatever international tax reform legislation emerges from the 115th Congress, it could help propel the wealthy former health-care financier to a statewide campaign.
Delaney declined to comment on whether he will challenge Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican who did not endorse Trump and has few obvious vulnerabilities heading into a 2018 reelection campaign.
For now, Delaney is focused on continuing to build his bipartisan credibility and policy chops while representing a spectacularly gerrymandered district that stretches from Potomac in Montgomery County to the West Virginia border.
He easily defeated a Republican challenger this year after a 2,700-vote squeaker in 2014, the same year Hogan defeated Democrat Anthony Brown.
Returning to a Congress in which both chambers are dominated by Republicans, Delaney said he will continue to push for a Social Security Commission, a carbon pricing bill and redistricting reform.
But since winning reelection last month, wherever he goes, he spends most of his energy hawking a plan that he says could create 10 million construction, manufacturing and service jobs in 10 years and address $3 trillion in infrastructure needs across the country.
Todd Eberly, a political-science professor at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, said Delaney pulled off a rare victory by gaining co-sponsors from both parties for his funding proposal.
“And he now has an incoming president who is going to be open to outside-the-box ideas and this certainly is that,” he said.
However, Eberly noted, Delaney could face some push back from those on the left who deride the plan as a corporate tax break.
When Donald Trump announced his pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, some liberals complained that the former Goldman Sachs banker had benefited from the financial crisis.
But comments made by Mnuchin before he was nominated by Trump have given Delaney reason to cheer.
The congressman’s proposal starts with a one-time 8.75 percent tax on money that U.S. multinational companies bring home through repatriation. The resulting $170 billion windfall could be split between transportation improvements and an infrastructure fund to help state and local governments.
Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) said tax restructuring and infrastructure are priorities for the Republican leadership.
She said talks on both issues are ongoing but declined to elaborate on her preferred funding mechanism. She supports a Virginia plan to use offshore drilling royalties to pay for transportation improvements within the state.
“This is very early in the process,” she said, referring to a federal bill, at a recent chamber forum. “These are the things that are being discussed.”
If Congress passes a comprehensive tax revision bill next year, analysts say there’s a good chance repatriation will be part of it. Then lawmakers would tackle infrastructure spending separately.
“It’s clear the Congress is going to try to do tax reform over the coming year,” said Scott Greenburg, an analyst at the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. “Whether a bill actually gets through is anybody’s guess.”