Paul Ryan, Romney Campaign Stumble Over Questions About Which Tax Loopholes They'd Close

Paul Ryan, Romney Campaign Stumble Over Questions About Tax Loopholes

Mitt Romney's campaign continued its trend Monday of refusing to specify which tax loopholes he and running mate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would close if elected, on the same day the campaign vowed to "reinforce more specifics" regarding what a Romney presidency would look like.

The Republican presidential nominee sought to refocus the debate on the economy with the release of two new ads on Monday, after his campaign spent much of last week trying to mitigate the criticism he incited when he condemned President Barack Obama's handling of attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya.

According to campaign aides, the new push will include a series of speeches aimed at laying out more detailed plans for a Romney-Ryan administration. Romney will focus on job creation, energy independence and reducing the deficit, while Ryan will highlight plans to deal with the debt and deficit.

But the specifics stop short when it comes to answering the looming tax loophole question, based on a new interview with Ryan released late Sunday night and a Romney campaign conference call held Monday morning to discuss the state of the race.

Romney and Ryan have repeatedly stated that they would offset tax cuts for the wealthy by closing tax loopholes, without identifying which particular loopholes they would close.

The new interview with Ryan, conducted by David Brody of CBN News, offers little variation on their standard response.

Asked whether there's a reason he and Romney aren't naming specific tax loopholes, Ryan responded, "Yes because we want to get it done." He went on to explain that his 12 years of experience on the House Ways and Means Committee has made him "very familiar with how to make successful tax reforms take place."

"We want to say this is our vision, lower tax rates across the board for families and small businesses and work on the loopholes that are enjoyed by the higher income earners, take away their tax shelters so more of their income is subject to taxation," Ryan said. "That lowers everybody’s tax rates. And we have to be able to work with Congress on those details, on how to fill it in and more to the point we don’t want to cut some backroom deal that they did with Obamacare where we hatched some plan behind the scenes and they spring it on the country."

"We want to do this in front, in the public, through congressional hearings with Congress so that we can get to the best conclusion with a public participation," he continued. "That’s the process that works the best to ultimate success gets this done. That’s why we’re doing it this way.”

On the Monday conference call, intended to preview some of the newly promised "specifics," Romney adviser Ed Gillespie brushed off a question about tax loopholes from Jonathan Karl of ABC News, pivoting instead to energy independence.

"As to the specifics, like I noted, for example, and there’s more specifics today relative to debt reduction," Gillespie said. "We'll talk about more specifics, for example, we talk about -- you know -- being energy independent by 2020, but what the governor’s going to do and Paul [Ryan] and others will reinforce the facts."

Gillespie went on to say that the campaign has learned that Americans want to hear more details from Romney and Ryan on how they would accomplish their stated goals, but he did not include the words "tax loopholes" in his answer.

The Obama campaign was quick to seize on the tax loophole issue, releasing a new ad and memo last week that offered its own explanation.

HuffPost’s Jon Ward reports:

Obama has delivered a simple message, saying Romney would give tax
cuts to the rich and raise taxes on the middle class to pay for it. Obama wants to raise taxes on those with higher incomes.

Romney's plan is to lower rates for all brackets, and pay for it in large part by closing corporate and individual loopholes. But he has refused to say which loopholes he would close, and so Obama has filled in these gaps for him, alleging that he would eliminate exemptions for middle-class households such as the mortgage interest deduction, or the exclusion for employer-provided health insurance.

Romney has insisted that any increases that result from eliminating loopholes in the code would land on upper incomes.

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