Klobuchar, Hatch: Not so fast on device tax repeal

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT), leaders of the anti-medical device tax campaign in the upper chamber, aren't trying to attach a repeal to the government funding bill now under debate, asking the industry to be patient as Congress works under the threat of shutdown.

As Politico reports, the senators would rather address the issue in Congress' next crisis: the impending debt ceiling. Hatch explained that a repeal of the 2.3% charge would be a better fit with the debt ceiling debate, as the continuing resolution on government funding isn't particularly a tax bill. Congress has until Oct. 17 to raise the United States' borrowing capacity and avoid a default.

The news comes just days after AdvaMed bestowed upon Klobuchar and Hatch its Congressional Champion Award, and while the two have stuck to their guns in opposing the tax, their odds of success remain daunting.

The medical device tax would generate $30 billion over a decade to support the tenets of the Affordable Care Act, and President Barack Obama has repeatedly said he'd veto any effort to defund healthcare reform, including a specific mention of repealing the device tax.

And while the effort has secured bipartisan support--a symbolic repeal bill won a 79-20 Senate vote in March--its Democratic supporters are yet to agree on just how to replace that $30 billion. Some, like New York Democrat Dan Maffei, have proposed slashing tax incentives for other industries to make up the difference, but that compromise is unlikely to gain any traction among the Republicans whose chief interest is cutting away at healthcare reform.

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chief author of the Affordable Care Act, told Politico that devicemakers, like pharma companies and hospitals, signed on to the terms of healthcare and are now trying to walk it back.

"A deal's a deal," Baucus said. "That industry contributed to a solution; they agreed to the tax, essentially, as did other industries. It's improper at this point to go back on the deal... Who's going to pay for getting them off the hook?"

- read the Politico story