The Senate Finance committee recently held a hearing with two of the people who played a part in passing the 1986 tax reform: former Senate Finance Chairman Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), and Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.). The Senate members were seeking advice on how to accomplish badly-needed tax reform when not everyone agrees what action should be taken. 

The Hill reported that the tax reform veterans emphasized the need for intensive bipartisan effort, as well as a little luck.

And Congress members themselves aren’t the only ones who need to be involved. Bradley said that the Treasury Secretary needed to be actively engaged, and the President had to be willing to use his clout to push things through when obstacles block the way.

Bradley also added an honest reality — that politicians are going to want to see personal political advantage from any action they take. For instance, in 1986, Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.) became “a historic chairman” with the reform, and Packwood was the first Finance chairman to get tax reform through.

A lot of pieces have to be in place in order for reform to happen, and that’s where luck comes in. But it really comes down to working together. Packwood said, “If they don’t agree on the goal, no quantity of leadership is going to make any difference.”