Washington (CNN) – Republicans, who have spent years clamoring for tax reform, were much less enthusiastic Wednesday when faced with a sweeping tax overhaul plan in an election year, reticent to discuss whether the proposal from House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Michigan, should even get a vote.
Camp's "Tax Reform Act of 2014" would lower tax rates for most Americans, but presents conservatives with an uncomfortable tradeoff: It raises the tax bill for large banks and the wealthy.
"This is the beginning of the conversation," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters. When asked about the tax increases in the draft, he dismissed the question, answering, "Blah, blah, blah, blah."
When CNN asked whether the 979-page bill will get a vote, the Republican leader from Ohio seemed to indicate it's too early to discuss that, too. "We are going to start the conversation today," he said.
All conversation, no action?
"The Boehner response was essentially a vote of no confidence," said Stan Collender, a former House and Senate budget staffer who is now an Executive Vice President with Qorvis Communications in Washington.
"It's really very simple," Collender asserted. "Republicans cannot possibly vote on a tax increase before the 2014 election."
Collender sees the timing and politics surrounding the Camp plan and its politically tricky tax increases as reaching into the presidential cycle.
"I think this puts the nail in the coffin of tax reform until after the 2016 election." Collender said.
Rank-and-file Republicans were still reading the details of the Camp plan Wednesday, but those few who had seen the proposal were reserving substantive comment for the moment.
"We're starting this debate, we'll see how far it can go," said House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin. "This is the beginning, this is a discussion draft."
A holy grail quest
Comprehensive tax reform has achieved near-holy grail status in the Capitol, which has not seen substantial tax overhaul since 1986. It is a difficult topic, fraught with political hazards on all sides. As a result, comprehensive proposals such as Camp's are exceedingly rare.
The conservative Heritage Action for America group gave Camp high marks for putting a plan on the table, but acknowledged that his effort is hitting walls with lobbyists and special interests whose clients could lose tax exemptions or see taxes go up in the proposal.
"Too many people in this town are afraid of putting their cards on the table." said Dan Holler, Heritage's communications director. "So to the extent that Camp produced a document that will get a bunch of people on K Street upset, that's a positive."
All of this adds up to a powerful document containing tough choices, but for the moment seems to be going nowhere.
A fellow Republican's comments even undercut the Camp report a full day before it was released.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who faces a tough re-election battle in Kentucky, told reporters Tuesday that Republicans and Democrats are too far apart for tax reform to be possible this year.
By Wednesday morning, some House conservatives were shaking their heads at the possible limbo for tax reform, and the state of the legislative process in general.
"I don't like the idea of doing nothing," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "The problem in this town is it's always an election year."
He sighed as he walked down a basement hallway. "We have to get past the idea that we have an election on the horizon," he concluded.