Meredith Shiner reports that Mark Prater has been plucked from the Republican side of the Senate finance committee to be staff director for the supercommittee. Who is Mark Prater? He is, according to one alumni magazine, the only remnant of the Bob Packwood era on the committee -- a.k.a, the era that gave us tax reform -- and he is, according to another alumni magazine, a guy who likes details and deals.
“Washington has always been partisan at times,” he explained. “But in the Senate, if you don’t have 60 votes, nothing happens. Since the 2000 elections, the majority knows better where it should assert its status and when to compromise. Over time you get a feeling for how things are going to play out — and you get a sense of humor about it.”
... He said his job is the perfect convergence of accounting and law. “It’s a great job for a tax lawyer because we’re taught to figure out the rules,” he said. “In this job, you get to figure out how the rules will be shaped. There’s no other job like that. Making the rules in tax is a unique responsibility.”
Some reason to be optimistic that the committee can be what Dave Camp and Kent Conrad have said they hope it'll be -- the starting gun for tax reform. Just as Rob Portman's appointment indicated that the GOP might have enough votes to deal on taxes, this appointment tells us that Democrats want to deal but have to (pardon the expression) lead from behind. One Democratic aide, brimming with optimism, says he knows how to craft "a fair, balanced solution that can make everyone a winner in a difficult situation like this." Balance = fairness. Fairness = taxes.