The lawmaker noted that aside from the lack of a statement promising action, the fact is that House members have just 13 scheduled days left in Washington this year.
"I'm going to continue to move ahead on the bill and continue to refine it," Camp said, adding that he is open to bringing up the bill in 2014, an election year, as well. "Timing is important. So, those discussions are going to be ongoing," he said.
Camp and other Republicans have noted distractions that have pushed his timetable back. For instance, Republicans have spent the last two months fighting other fiscal battles — including a stalemate over a continuing resolution that ultimately led to the government shutdown — taking key legislative days away from tax reform and other priorities. Now there is also a reluctance to press ahead as Republicans don't want to lose the traction they've gained in their critical messaging against the Affordable Care Act.
"You've got the CR that pushed us back, you've got the debt ceiling that pushed us back, the government closure that pushed us back, [and] the budget conference is happening — their deadline is December 13," Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Wash., a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said Thursday. "Do we want to mark that bill up before the 13th of December now? Do we want to wait until after? ... They could tell us they want us to be here through Christmas for all I know."
The apparent delay is a major setback for Camp, pushing back a project he has worked on since becoming the Ways and Means chairman in 2011. Over the past several months, he and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., have been busy traveling the country together to whip up support for comprehensive tax reform.
And if a reform plan is not introduced next year, there is a chance Camp would completely lose his hold on the process. Under House Republican rules, he is term-limited as chairman at the end of next year. Assuming he wins reelection, he would need a waiver to keep the gavel, which has been a rare practice.
Officially, the word from Camp and other House Republican leaders is that the question should not be so much whether tax reform will occur, but when.
Reichert said there are rumors that the House would push back its Christmas holiday by a week, ending its session the week of Dec. 16, when the Senate is also in session, rather than on Dec. 12, in order to give the body time to consider a potential budget deal and other legislative efforts. But with so little time left on the calendar, tax reform is likely to be pushed into 2014.
Even then, pushing a tax-reform fight into the midterm elections could be problematic. Republicans are hoping to use the current furor over issues with the Affordable Care Act to help maintain their majority in the House and potentially pick up seats in the Senate as well. Some worry that tax-reform efforts could overshadow that messaging and put vulnerable Republicans on defense over their party's new tax plan.