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Policy: Environment & Energy

Republicans signal support for tax cut legislation on Harry Reid's terms

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Politics,Congress,Susan Ferrechio,Taxes,Harry Reid,PennAve,Economy,Energy and Environment,Budgets and Deficits

Just days after blocking an energy efficiency bill, Senate Republicans appear to have little appetite for a similar fight over a bill to revive critical tax breaks.

Republicans told the Washington Examiner Tuesday that they want a vote on repealing a medical device tax that was passed under the health care law. They hoped to attach the repeal to a bill that revives more than four dozen popular tax cuts that expired at the end of the year.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has rejected the proposal and said he will stop any attempts by Republicans to amend the bill in any way.

During a similar fight on a separate bill Monday, Reid rejected five GOP amendments, including provisions to stop new regulations on coal plants and a measure to speed up exports of natural gas. Republicans countered by refusing to vote for the bill, which fell short of the 60 votes needed to end debate.

The tax measure is different, though, Republicans said.

It enjoys wide support within the GOP conference and is considered to be one of the few pieces of legislation the Senate has taken up that can boost the economy.

The legislation would revive the popular research and development tax credit, for example, as well as deductions for mortgage interest and higher education expenses.

“The stature of this bill certainly may effect people’s thinking,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said.

Corker said he hasn’t made up his mind about the bill yet.

Others already have, including Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who plans to vote for the bill, with or without the GOP amendments.

House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., made no threats to block the bill after meeting with his rank and file on Tuesday.

He pointed out that the measure easily cleared a procedural hurdle Tuesday morning.

“Most of our members voted to get on the bill, so the bill does enjoy support,” McConnell said, adding, “It is always our hope to have amendments.”

The biggest obstacle may come from fiscally conservative Republicans on the budget committee who will raise a point of order against the bill because it will contribute to the deficit.

The legislation’s $85 billion cost is not offset with other cuts or tax increases.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told Roll Call he’ll also try to block the bill.

Both Republicans and Democrats have called for the repeal of the medical device tax. It was included in the health care law to help raise money to pay for the bill. It would implement a 2.3 percent tax on medical devices, which opponents say would be passed on to consumers.

Reid, on Tuesday, said he has no interest in repealing the tax.

“I’m not going to cry any big tears over the device folks,” Reid told reporters. “Their profits were huge last year. Remember, there was one deal -- I think it was a $15 billion deal -- where they were consolidated, a merger. So the device tax folks are doing extremely well. They're doing extremely well with 'Obamacare.' Their profits have gone up significantly since ‘Obamacare.’”

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