Rep. Mark Walker (R., N.C.), the newly elected chair of the Republican Study Committee, said that tax reform and repealing Obamacare are two agenda priorities in the upcoming year.
"I think right now tax reform is something that the American people have clamored for many years, many decades," Walker said. "Repeal of Obamacare is another huge, important issue that's been part of many different campaign trails, as far as members saying they would do their best repeal it, specifically the parts that would hurt small businesses and individuals."
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"Those are a couple of things right out of the gate that we can process and we're excited about being part of it," he said.
Walker said the tax code should be simplified because its current version is full of regulations that make it costly and hard for taxpayers to file.
"This administration has added another 8,000 pages to the tax code regulation," Walker said. "Now think about this—74,000 pages of tax code regulations, the complications of it, the legal aspect if the IRS wants to target and go after someone—you're pockets aren’t deep enough."
"People want a simplified tax code," he said. "The model that we've come up with is a 5×7 postcard that allows us to move forward but keeping three very important and primary deductions."
Walker said these included raising the education deduction, charitable giving deduction, and mortgage interest rate deduction. The last deduction, he said, is important to encourage young people to own homes, since home ownership has declined in many communities.
Walker said another goal is to lower the corporate tax rate to 15 percent, which he said would help bring back jobs to the United States.
Additionally, the chair said repealing and replacing Obamacare will be a focus of the committee because it is something a majority of Americans want.
The Republican Study Committee introduced its reform bill, titled the American Health Care Reform Act, in 2015. In June, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) brought forward an Obamacare replacement plan as part of the House Republicans' "Better Way" series of policy proposals.
Walker praised components of these plans, including an overall deduction for people who are paying for their own insurance, efforts to increase competition in the health insurance marketplace, and tort reform to keep costs down.
President-elect Donald Trump has said he plans to keep provisions of Obamacare for Americans with pre-existing conditions and young people, who are allowed to stay on their parents' plans until they are 26 under current law. Walker said some of these ideas originated with Republicans, and supported keeping them.
"It is important to make sure we don't hurt people like that but at the same time we have to make sure that we're doing something that is fair to all people across the country," Walker said.
Still, Walker said that the current health care system is not working for many Americans. He noted that in the past year, BlueCross BlueShield premiums in North Carolina went up more than 30 percent.
"This is something that's not hyperbole or perception," he said. "This is something that people are feeling, whether it's individuals or small business people. Something has to be done."
"There is a credibility issue because [Obamacare] was sold originally on a promise of a reduction of premiums," he said. "Well after all of these blocks started falling in the other direction, it did drive a stake through the question of credibility for the Affordable Care Act and I think we're at a place right now, I know in North Carolina, the majority of people want the bill repealed and I believe that’s where it helps gives us the strength to move forward."