(Bloomberg News) Republican platform drafters refused to put their party on record for preserving the mortgage-interest deduction, giving Mitt Romney more flexibility to promote his plan to lower tax rates paid by corporations and the wealthiest Americans without increasing the federal debt.
The platform committee, meeting in Tampa, Florida, in advance of the Aug. 27 Republican National Convention, yesterday defeated an amendment on the mortgage deduction issue by a show of hands as it moved toward today's scheduled completion of the draft statement of positions the party will offer voters in the November election.
The document, which also reaffirms Republican support for a constitutional amendment banning abortions with no exceptions and was amended to call for Federal Reserve audits, will be submitted next week for approval by the full convention.
The mortgage interest vote was a shift in Republican policy from four years ago, when the party platform said that "because affordable housing is in the national interest, any simplified tax system should continue to encourage homeownership, recognizing the tremendous social value that the home mortgage interest deduction has had for decades."
Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has proposed lowering corporate and individual income-tax rates and eliminating some tax breaks, without specifying which ones. A Romney campaign adviser, former Senator Jim Talent of Missouri, urged delegates to reject the mortgage-interest plank to avoid muddying the call for a simpler tax system.
"What we have now on tax reform and tax relief is a very powerful statement of principle" that is "in favor of a tax system that is simple, transparent, flat and fair," Talent said. Platform drafters should "avoid getting into specific areas of the code" because "that would take away from the power" of the existing statement, he said.
Others debating the platform disagreed, saying an endorsement of the mortgage-interest tax deduction would send a helpful signal to a housing market still trying to recover from the recession.
"The mortgage-interest deduction is high on the list for all Realtors," said April Newland, a convention delegate from the Virgin Islands. She termed it "the last vestige of why people would be interested in buying a home."