The House Ways & Means Committee voted this week to approve Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) medical device tax repeal bill for a vote on the House floor, but the decision wasn’t without conflict.
Democrats who expressed concern about how to make up for the $30 billion the med-tech levy is projected to raise over 10 years were outvoted with a 23-11 majority, with 2 of their own joining Republicans in supporting repeal.
Cook Group federal affairs vice president Allison Giles was in attendance during the markup hearing, where House members alternated between urging repeal in defense of American jobs and defending the tax to help pay for healthcare reform.
"We were pleased that so many of the members understood that this is about jobs and patient access to medical technologies," Giles told MassDevice.com. "We’re really excited that the final vote achieved a bipartisan vote with 2 members from the minority party joining the majority."
Getting Democrats on board with repeal efforts has proven a challenge. Only about a dozen of the 240 co-sponsors on Paulsen’s bill and all 11 of the nay-sayers in the House markup meeting this week are Democrats.
Ways & Means Committee members Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) and Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) voted to push the repeal bill House vote, although neither are noted as co-sponsors on the bill itself.
Finding replacement for the tax revenues was of particular concern for blue members of the Ways & Means Committee, but chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) wrote those concerns off to deal with later.
"The pay-for was a big one," Giles told us. "There was a concern expressed by several Democrats that the bill was not paid for, and Chairman Camp said that the rules don’t require legislation be paid for in committee. He expected the legislation to be paid for as required when the bill goes through the House floor."
Paulsen’s tax repeal measure doesn’t need any additional signers in the House, but without Democrats’ support it’s a sure bet to flop in the Senate, where not a single blue member has signed on.
"I really think the debate should be about jobs and patient access to medical technologies," Giles said. "To the extend that it’s been politicized I think detracts from the issue. I’m always hoping that members will look at that aspect of it and not other politically charged issues."
Nonetheless, she remains optimistic as the bill moves toward a House vote, which may come as early as next week.
"This has been a long effort," she told us. "The bill has 240 co-sponsors now, and that’s a tremendous number. It has bipartisan support and in this environment that can be difficult. We’re just thrilled that members have looked at this issue and think it’s important enough to move out of committee and onto the floor, and hope that members, when they look at the bill, will recognize the importance of the issue for their constituents and will vote in support of it."