Opponents of the 2.3% medical device tax may have found some momentum in the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives, but efforts in the U.S. Senate are moving much slower.
A pair of bills to repeal the levy, which will go into effect in 2013, are currently referred to the Senate’s Finance Committee but have garnered significantly less attention from lawmakers in the upper house.
Senate bill S.17 "Medical Device Access & Innovation Protection Act, " sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), has 20 co-sponsors but only 2 lawmakers have signed on in the past 8 months: Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who signed on at the end of February, and Mike Lee (R-Utah), who added his signature in late November of last year. Another Scott Brown (R-Mass.) bill has just 2 co-sponsors.
A bill to repeal the health care law altogether, S.192 "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act," sponsored by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has 47 co-sponsors.
By contrast, efforts in the House to squash the excise tax have generous support. Rep. Erik Paulsen’s (R-Minn.) H.R.436 "Protect Medical Innovation Act of 2011" has 228 co-sponsors and appears headed for a vote on the House floor sometime this year. A spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) office, recently told MassDevice that he was "continuing to work with the bill’s sponsors regarding timing for consideration for the coming year."
Although a vote in the House would be a significant moral victory for the device industry, getting the bill through the Senate, where Democrats still maintain control, is highly unlikely.
Further, the recent announcement from Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) that she will step down from the upper chamber significantly clouds the GOP’s chances of taking control of the Senate, according to most beltway observers.
Snowe, a member of the Senate Finance Committee, was instrumental in getting the Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act through committee in 2009 – although she later voted against the measure.
Here’s a list of Senators signed on to the device tax repeal efforts:
- Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
- Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
- Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mont.)
- Sen. Scott P. Brown (R-Mass.)
- Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.)
- Sen. Daniel Coats (R-Ind.)
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)
- Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.)
- Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)
- Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla)
- Sen. Mark Steven Kirk (R-Ill.)
- Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)
- Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)
- Sen. Jerry Moran, (R-Kans.)
- Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio)
- Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho)
- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.)
- Sen. Pat Toomey, Pat (R-Pa.)
- Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)