Some Republicans hope to use an upcoming debate over increasing the federal government's borrowing authority to trigger action on tax change. The government is expected to reach the limit of its borrowing authority by early fall, raising the possibility of another debt standoff like the one in 2011 that brought it to the brink of default.
Details are fluid, but congressional aides have been working on mechanisms to streamline the process of passing a tax package, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, perhaps guaranteeing floor votes on bills approved by the tax-writing committees in the House and Senate. Camp and Baucus chair those committees.
President Barack Obama, however, has said he won't negotiate over raising the debt ceiling.
Obama has called for an overhaul of corporate taxes, and he laid some groundwork to accomplish that in his latest budget proposal. The president has also said he wants to do comprehensive tax reform as part of a broad budget deal that cuts spending and reformulates entitlement programs. Such a grand bargain has proven elusive.
Camp and Baucus say they are open to a process that links tax reform to the debt ceiling. But Baucus warns, "I don't want to be part of something that's political or partisan. But I do want to be part of something that's practical and pragmatic that looks like it's going to advance the ball."
Baucus, who has been in the Senate since 1978, announced in April he won't run for re-election in 2014. He said he will focus much of his remaining time in the Senate trying to steer a tax package through Congress.
Camp says he is committed to passing a tax bill out of his committee by the end of the year. There is no guarantee the full House would take up the bill, but Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled his support for the effort by reserving the prestigious bill number HR 1 for a tax overhaul measure.
Lawmakers in both parties are convinced that simpler, easier-to-understand tax laws would spur economic activity. But there are significant partisan differences.
The Republican recipe calls for reducing or eliminating tax breaks that benefit targeted taxpayers, and using all the additional revenue to reduce overall rates for everyone. At the end of the day, the tax system would raise about the same amount of money, but businesses could focus on being more efficient instead of trying to take advantage of targeted tax breaks, supporters say.
Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress also want to reduce or eliminate various tax breaks. Overall income tax rates would be lower, but the wealthy would pay more each year because they would lose certain exemptions, deductions and credits.
Choosing which tax breaks to scale back is a big hurdle. For all of the work Camp and Baucus have done building support for the idea of tax reform, they have yet to answer hard questions about which breaks to scrap.
That's because Americans like their credits, deductions and exemptions -- the provisions that make the tax law so complicated in the first place. In exchange for lower tax rates, would workers be willing to pay taxes on employer-provided health benefits or on contributions to their retirement plans? How would homeowners feel about losing the mortgage interest deduction?
Those are among the three biggest tax breaks in the tax code, according to congressional estimates. Together, they are projected to save taxpayers nearly $300 billion this year.
"We're going to have to come to that," Baucus said. "Those are very big important questions and we're going to tackle them."