Senate Democrats join GOP in bid to repeal health care sales tax on medical devices
WASHINGTON — It isn't every day that more than half the Democrats in the Senate vote to repeal part of President Obama's health care law.
But that's what happened on Thursday night when the Senate voted 79-20 to repeal a 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices such as catheters, pacemakers and MRI machines. The tax was intended to help finance coverage for the uninsured that starts next year.
The medical device industry, a technology leader that provides many well-paying jobs across the country, has been lobbying all-out to repeal the tax. And Republicans were hoping on Friday that the vote signals a new willingness by Democrats to defy the president on unpopular provisions of his signature law.
But others pointed out that the vote is nonbinding, amounting to budget guidance. The repeal of the tax is far from a done deal, and things might have come out quite differently if senators had to confront spending cuts or tax increases to fill in a 10-year, $30 billion revenue hole.
Nonetheless, 33 of the chamber's 53 Democrats joined all 45 Republicans in voting for the repeal amendment by Sens. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. Four out of seven members of the Democratic leadership voted for it. Two independent senators who caucus with the Democrats split their votes for and against.
Republicans said the result exceeded their expectations.
“I would like to see the entire law repealed,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “But since the Supreme Court said it's constitutional, and the president was re-elected, I think we are going to see Democrats work in a bipartisan way to repeal portions of the law.”
Other targets: a tax on health insurance plans and a Medicare cost control board.
Not so fast, says the White House. “Last night's purely symbolic vote has no bearing on the future of the Affordable Care Act and its implementation,” said spokesman Brad Carroll.
The administration says the industry will benefit from millions of newly insured customers as a result of the law, and it should contribute in the same way that hospitals, drug companies and health insurance plans are taking cuts or paying higher taxes.
The industry says it has been lumped into the wrong category, because the vast majority of its customers are covered by insurance and it isn't expecting a windfall from Obama's law.
The companies started paying the tax on Jan. 1, and they say if it stays on the books that will lead to lay-offs and put a damper on investment. Outside economists expect the industry will pass on most of the tax increase to customers.
The one thing the Senate vote clearly proved is that the industry has lobbying clout, said Robert Laszewski, a consultant to health care companies.
“This was an easy vote for many senators to take in response to a very powerful medical device lobby,” Laszewski said. “Let's see what happens when the choice is to undermine the (health care law) or come up with an alternative source of revenue. I don't think these 33 Democratic senators have any intention to start taking the Affordable Care Act apart.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Housing authority officer shot dead in New Orleans
- Chicago inmate eats screws, needles, amasses $1M medical tab
- Florida mother who refused circumcision for son, 4, freed
- Navy divers to salvage remains of Confederate warship in Georgia
- Yellowstone injuries: Slips, falls outpace bear maulings
- John Nash, wife, ‘A Beautiful Mind’ inspiration, die in N.J. taxi crash
- Rare sighting of bird thrills watchers in Kansas
- Cleveland protests of officer’s acquittal mostly peaceful
- Senator Warren calls for public hearings on bank waivers
- Protester leaves Shell ship north of Seattle; 1 remains
- After bruising safety crisis, U.S. car watchdog shows its bite