POLITICS

Senate Dems and GOP set to repeal Obamacare tax on medical devices

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,Politics Digest

Nine Senate Democrats — in a break with the party policy of blocking efforts to tinker with Obamacare — have joined with Republican colleagues to repeal a tax levied by President Obama’s health care overhaul.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., have introduced an amendment to the budget resolution to repeal the medical device tax.

“This will cost device manufacturers roughly $194 million per month and put 43,000 American jobs at risk,” Hatch said of the medical device tax yesterday after saying that “heading into its three-year anniversary, we know that ObamaCare will lead to higher health care costs, fewer jobs, and smaller paychecks for American families.” The third anniversary of the law is this Saturday.

Republicans have held several show votes to repeal all or part of Obamacare, but this amendment has enough Democratic co-sponsors to get it across the finish line.

“We expect every Republican is going to vote for it,” a Senate Republican leadership aide told The Washington Examiner. If true, the amendment has at least 54 votes in support of repeal. (The other eight Democrats are: Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.; Sen. Mo Cowan, D-Mass.; Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn.; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I.; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.;  and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.)

Hatch’s first effort to repeal the medical device tax in the last Congress received no Democratic co-sponsors, but pressure from the medical device industry has helped him gather bipartisan support from Democrats who represents states dependent on that industry for jobs.

“[I]ndustry lobbyists helped circulate a letter among Senate Democrats in December, after the election, criticizing the tax and urging a delay in its Jan. 1 establishment,” The New York Times noted in a story about the lobbying against the tax. “Sixteen sitting Democratic senators and two who had just been elected ultimately signed on. It was a real coup for the industry, as the letter included top Senate Democrats like Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Charles E. Schumer of New York.”

If those numbers hold when the amendment comes to a vote, it would easily clear 60 votes. The budget resolution is not binding law, though, so the formal repeal would have to come out of the House and then pass another Senate vote. The House has already passed legislation to repeal the tax.

“You never want to count your chickens before they roost, but the way things are headed, passage of this amendment repealing the medical device tax seem like it could really happen,” Hatch said in a statement to The Examiner.  “With more and more Democrats and Republicans coming together to get rid of this tax, because of its real impact on jobs, economic growth and medical innovation, we’re building real momentum to end this tax once and for all.”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has suggested that President Obama would sign off on the repeal. “Sen. Klobuchar and I rode Air Force One [in February], and we discussed this,” Franken told The Post Bulletin (Minn.) last month.  “I think that there has been some renewed understanding on the president’s part.”

The vote on the amendment is expected to take place today or tomorrow.

 

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